Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of: Karen Kossman, Case No. 34947-C.
James Bukac, for petitioner.
Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Blatt, Williams, Jr. and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge Williams, Jr. concurs in result only.
The petitioner, Karen D. Kossman, appeals here from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) which discontinued Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits to her children because of her refusal to sign a reimbursement agreement.
The petitioner lives with her husband, two minor children from a previous marriage for whom she had been receiving AFDC benefits, and a minor child of her present husband. On June 20, 1980 she and her present husband jointly purchased a home to which they took title as tenants by the entireties. When the County Assistance Office (CAO) learned of this acquisition, it informed her that she would have to sign a reimbursement agreement encumbering her property if she wished to receive further AFDC assistance for her children.*fn1 She declined to sign the agreement because her husband refused to allow an encumbrance of the property because he was not legally responsible for the support of her two children. The Venango County Board of Assistance then notified her of its intention to discontinue both AFDC and medical assistance benefits for the children as of September 5, 1980. After a fair hearing on her appeal, the hearing
examiner held that, while her children remained eligible for medical assistance,*fn2 they were ineligible for continued AFDC benefits because of her refusal to execute a lien in favor of the Department on the real property owned by her and her husband. This decision was affirmed by the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals and, following a request for reconsideration, the Secretary of DPW issued a final order affirming the decision of the Director. The petitioner then appealed to this Court. During the appellate process the petitioner's children have continued to receive AFDC benefits.
The petitioner argues that the regulations promulgated by the DPW are based upon and are consistent with The Support Law (Law), Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2045, as amended, 62 P.S. §§ 1971-1977, and that ownership of an entirety interest is not the type of financial ability contemplated by the law in requiring persons within a certain family relationship to support indigent family members. Department of Public Assistance v. Sharago, 381 Pa. 74, 112 A.2d 162 (1955). Section 4(a) of the Law, 62 P.S. § 1974(a), provides in pertinent part that:
the real and personal property of any person shall be liable . . . for the expenses of the support, maintenance, assistance and burial of the spouse and unemancipated minor children of such property owner, incurred by any public body or public agency, if such property was owned during the time such expenses were incurred, or if a right or cause of action existed during the time such expenses were incurred from which the ownership of such property
resulted. Any public body or public agency may sue the owner of such property for moneys so expended, and any judgment obtained shall be a lien upon the said real estate of such person and be collected as other judgments, except as to real and personal property comprising the home and furnishings of such person, which home shall be subject to the lien of such judgment but shall not be subject ...