Appeal from the Order of the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare in case of In Re: Zoeann Heinsohn, Case No. 5526-C.
Jeffrey L. Greenwald, for petitioner.
Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Rogers, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 518]
Zoeann Heinsohn (Petitioner) appeals from an order of the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare (Secretary or DPW) which, as subsequently clarified by a letter from the Secretary, reduced the amount of a transportation allowance grant issued to Petitioner by $214.00. We vacate and remand.
The fact findings of the hearing examiner in this case, which are supported by substantial evidence in the record, establish that Petitioner was a recipient of assistance under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program at all times relevant to this matter. Petitioner enrolled as a student at Moravian College in September, 1978 with the goal of attaining a degree in Medical Technology. Petitioner
[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 519]
obtained a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)*fn1 loan in the amount of $1,233.00 and a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG)*fn2 of $800.00 to help finance her first year in college. Petitioner had to travel 51.4 miles round trip in order to reach the college.
Prior to her enrollment, Petitioner visited the Northampton County Assistance Office (CAO) and requested information, in broad terms, as to any additional benefits she might be entitled to as a result of her decision to attend undergraduate college. The hearing examiner found that Petitioner was not told of the availability of a transportation allowance to cover her travel expenses. Petitioner subsequently obtained legal advice and applied for an allowance on or about December 14, 1979 to cover her travel expenses for the period from September, 1978 through July, 1979.*fn3 On June 23, 1980 Petitioner was notified by the CAO that her request had been denied. Petitioner filed a timely appeal and a hearing examiner, after conducting a fair hearing, determined that Petitioner was eligible for the allowance. The Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals affirmed the hearing examiner's order. The CAO then requested reconsideration by the Secretary, contending that Petitioner
[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 520]
had $214.00 available for transportation expenses from her BEOG grant and PHEAA loan which should be applied to reduce the amount of the transportation allowance. The Secretary agreed and ordered that the allowance be reduced. It is the Secretary's final order that has been appealed to this Court.
Two basic issues have been presented for our consideration: 1) whether the final order of the Secretary was in accordance with applicable statutory and regulatory law, and 2) whether the BEOG grant and PHEAA loan are exempt from consideration as income or resources in ...