Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Patricia Holloway, Case No. 1259 191-C.
Lawrence M. Schall, for petitioner.
Phillip B. Rosenthal, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Mencer, Blatt and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
Patricia Holloway (claimant) appeals here from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) reversing the decision of a hearing examiner which had granted her a training allowance pursuant to the DPW regulations at Sections 175.23(c)(3)(i)(A) and (c)(3)(ii)(A)(II) of the Public Assistance Eligibility Manual (PAEM), 55 Pa. Code §§ 175.23(c)(3)(i)(A) and (c)(3)(ii)(A)(II).
The claimant had worked as a full-time secretary until 1974 when she injured the little finger of her right hand and consequently lost all feeling and control in the finger, becoming unable to type proficiently and was then discharged. She thereafter performed secretarial/clerical work for Kelly Girl in jobs which did not require much typing. As a recipient of benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), she later informed her caseworker that she planned to attend a course in beauty culture and requested a training allowance to cover her expenses for uniforms, shoes, child care and transportation, but the County Assistance Office (CAO) denied this request on the grounds that the training was not part of the DPW's plan for her. After a fair hearing, at which a representative of the CAO testified that it was aware of the claimant's handicap but had nevertheless determined that she should continue working in the clerical
field, the hearing examiner found that, in view of the claimant's handicap, the CAO's determination had been unreasonable. On appeal, the Director of the DPW Office of Hearings and Appeals (Director) reversed the Hearing Examiner, having determined that the evidence and the hearing officer's findings did not support a conclusion that the CAO had abused its discretion. This appeal followed.
Our scope of review in these cases is limited to determining whether or not the final adjudication was in accordance with law, constitutional rights were violated, or all necessary findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence. Musselman v. Department of Public Welfare, 39 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 537, 395 A.2d 1047 (1979).
The claimant contends that the Director erred in substituting his own findings of fact for those of the hearing examiner. In so arguing, she points to the DPW regulations found at PAEM §§ 275.4(h)(1)(iii) and (iv), 55 Pa. Code §§ 275.4(h)(1)(iii) and (iv), which specifically authorize the hearing examiner to determine the facts, and at PAEM § 275.4(h)(4)(i), 55 Pa. Code § 275.4(h)(4)(i), which provides in pertinent part that:
Reversal by the Director will be confined to matters of law and established departmental policy; no findings of fact made by the Hearing Examiner will be subject to reversal.
We believe that the Director's review of a hearing examiner's decision is clearly limited to determining whether or not the decision is in accord with the law and the duly promulgated agency regulations. Fettrow v. Department of Public Welfare, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 220, 407 A.2d 487 (1979). We also believe that the pertinent DPW regulations permit a training ...