Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of Frances V. DeGideo, No. B-179081.
Richard M. Connelly, with him John L. Walder, for petitioner.
William J. Kennedy, Assistant Attorney General, with him John T. Kupchinsky, Assistant Attorney General, Richard Wagner, Chief Counsel, and Harvey Bartle, III, Attorney General, for respondent.
Judges Blatt, Craig and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Wilkinson, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 264]
The claimant*fn1 filed for unemployment compensation on February 11, 1979 and shortly thereafter received a Notice of Financial Determination dated February 22, 1979 which informed her that she was eligible for maximum benefits of $3,390 at a weekly rate of $113. She repeatedly informed the Office of Employment Security (Office) that, in determining her maximum benefits, it had incorrectly credited her with substantially higher wages than she had in fact received from one of her former employers.*fn2 Nonetheless, she continued to receive benefits at the $113 weekly rate until a revised Notice of Determination was issued on August 14, 1979, in which her calculated benefits were revised downward to maximum benefits of $2,070 at a weekly rate of $69. By August 4, 1979, the last day on which the claimant received a compensation payment, she had, as a result of having been paid at the incorrect higher weekly rate, been the recipient of an overpayment of $1,056.
[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 265]
Her benefits were therefore discontinued nine weeks prior to the expiration of her thirty-week benefit period. She appealed to the Board.*fn3
Following a hearing on September 20, 1979, the referee found that the additional $1,056 paid to the claimant constituted a non-fault overpayment pursuant to Section 804(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law), Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 874(b). Following a second hearing on October 26, 1979, the referee determined that, inasmuch as the claimant had received her total financial settlement of $2,070 as of July 7, 1979, her maximum benefits were then exhausted and her claim for benefits for the remaining nine weeks of the original benefit period was, therefore, invalid under Section 401(c) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 801(c).*fn4 The Board affirmed the referee and this appeal followed.
The claimant asserts that at the time her benefits were terminated she was otherwise eligible for nine more weeks of benefits and contends that, because of her good faith efforts to inform the Office of their error in determining her maximum benefit rate, she should not be penalized by being denied the full thirty weeks of benefits. She relies on the Social Security Act mandate that the administration of state unemployment laws must be "reasonably calculated to insure full payment of unemployment compensation
[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 266]
when due," 42 U.S.C. § 503(a)(1), as discussed in Unemployment Compensation Board of Review v. Selby, 25 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 273, 278, 360 A.2d 254, 257 (1976), where we said that, "[t]he Social Security Act provisions that unemployment compensation be paid in full when due, therefore, have emphasized the importance of timely payment of benefits rather than the amount of benefits to be paid." The discussion in Selby, however, centered upon the question of recoupment provisions which reduce the amount of subsequent benefits as not necessarily contravening federal purposes if they do not delay receipt of those benefits. Neither Section 503(a)(1) of the Social Security Act nor Selby stood for the proposition that, once the Office has miscalculated maximum benefits and, consequently, the weekly payment breakdown, it is forever committed to pay the claimant the erroneously arrived at benefits after the error has been rectified and the amount of the claimant's entitlement has been exhausted.
The claimant alternatively contends that, pursuant to Section 804(b) of the Act, 43 P.S. § 874(b), the overpayment of benefits is only recoupable at the rate of one-third of her maximum benefits or one-third of her weekly benefit amount rather than by the arbitrary termination ...