Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Edward Groller, dated October 23, 1979.
Douglas G. Dye, with him Mary Jeffrey, for petitioner.
Carol A. Genduso, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.
Judges MacPhail, Williams, Jr. and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 124]
Petitioner, through his legal representative, contacted the local County Board of Assistance (Board) on May 8, 1979, in order to apply for State Blind Pension (SBP) benefits. The first SBP payment was authorized effective August 30, 1979 for the period of July 30, 1979 to August 29, 1979.
On August 7, 1979, petitioner filed an appeal with the Department of Public Welfare (Department) alleging undue administrative delay in the processing of his application and requesting SBP payments for the months of May, June, and July of 1979. An evidentiary hearing was held on September 14, 1979, at which time the Hearing Examiner determined that petitioner was entitled to receive SBP benefits for the month of July 1979, but was not entitled to benefits for May and June of 1979. The Hearing Examiner's Order was affirmed by the Department and this timely appeal followed.
[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 125]
The petitioner's initial contact with the Board on May 8, 1979 consisted of a request that an application for SBP benefits be taken on his behalf. On May 25, 1979, 13 working days later, the petitioner's application was taken by a case worker from the Board.
The case worker informed the petitioner that to be eligible for SBP benefits, an applicant must "undergo an examination for visual acuity as required by the Department"*fn1 and that the examining physician must submit medical verification forms to the county medical consultant before SBP benefits can be authorized.*fn2
On May 29, 1979, the case worker sent the medical verification forms to petitioner's doctor with instructions that they be completed and returned as soon as possible. The doctor returned the forms on July 11, 1979, approximately six weeks after receiving them from the case worker. It is important to note that obtaining medical verification is normally the responsibility of the applicant.*fn3 However, in this instance the case worker sent the forms directly to the doctor in compliance with the petitioner's request that he be relieved of that task.
While the Department admits there was an unusual delay (13 working days) in processing the application at the county level, it maintains that this delay did not cause the petitioner to lose benefits. It is the Department's position that if ...