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MARGARET HANKINSON v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/26/81)

decided: January 26, 1981.

MARGARET HANKINSON, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of Margaret Hankinson, No. 99187-C.

COUNSEL

John R. Rellick, for petitioner.

Jason Manne, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Blatt, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 308]

This is an appeal by Margaret Hankinson (Petitioner) from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) dated February 5, 1980, that discontinued Aid to Families of Dependent Children Assistance (AFDC) for Petitioner's two minor children and continued medical assistance for them. Petitioner appeals the denial of AFDC only.

The facts of this case are not in dispute. The Petitioner lives with her husband, her two minor children from a former marriage and a minor child of her husband. The Petitioner's husband is neither the natural nor adoptive father of the Petitioner's two children. Only the Petitioner's two children received AFDC and medical assistance. In September 1979 the Petitioner and her husband jointly purchased a mobile home. On October 14, 1979, the Petitioner notified the Erie County Assistance Office (CAO) that she and her husband had moved into a mobile home they were purchasing. The CAO requested the Petitioner to sign a reimbursement agreement to encumber her mobile home. The Petitioner refused. She claimed that her husband refused to allow such an encumbrance because the mobile home was owned as tenants by the entireties and that he was not legally responsible to support the Petitioner's two children.

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 309]

Because of the Petitioner's refusal to sign a reimbursement agreement, the CAO notified the Petitioner that AFDC and medical assistance benefits for her children would be terminated on November 11, 1979. The Petitioner appealed and requested a hearing. Subsequent to the filing of that appeal but prior to the hearing, the CAO rescinded its prior notification of denial of benefits and told the Petitioner that it was not necessary for her to sign the reimbursement form. At the same time, the Petitioner was advised that she would be required to supply information necessary to encumber the mobile home. She was also told that the CAO pursuant to DPW regulations*fn1 would then refer this information to DPW's Bureau of Claim Settlement (BCS) whereupon BCS would make a determination of whether the mobile home could be encumbered. The Petitioner informed the CAO that she would not supply the requested information. The CAO then notified the Petitioner that AFDC and medical assistance would be terminated for refusal to supply the requested information. The Petitioner again appealed. A fair hearing was held on January 10, 1980. The parties agreed that the issue before them was whether the CAO had correctly proposed to discontinue AFDC and medical assistance because the appellant refused to allow her mobile home to be encumbered. The Hearing Examiner held that the Petitioner's two children were eligible for medical assistance but were ineligible for AFDC due to Petitioner's failure to acknowledge the liability of the trailer home for reimbursement. The Petitioner appealed to this Court.

Our scope of review of a DPW decision is limited to a determination of whether the adjudication was in accordance with the law, whether constitutional rights were violated and whether all the necessary findings of

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 310]

    fact were supported by substantial evidence. Orner v. Department of Public Welfare, 44 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 635, 404 A.2d 452 (1979).

The parties raise two bases for discontinuance of AFDC assistance before this Court. The Petitioner argues that DPW cannot encumber a mobile home that is being purchased by her and her husband, a man who is not legally responsible to support her children and that DPW erred in discontinuing the AFDC assistance because she refused to permit the encumbrance. The DPW, on the other hand, contends that AFDC assistance was discontinued because the Petitioner failed to cooperate with the DPW and furnish relevant ...


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