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SHARON R. OWENS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/18/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: July 18, 1983.

SHARON R. OWENS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT

Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of: Sharon R. Owens, No. 33661.

COUNSEL

Thomas F. Meister, for petitioner.

Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 495]

This is an appeal by Sharon R. Owens of an order of the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare (Department) which denied her a special one-time grant to purchase an automobile. We affirm.

Sharon R. Owens was receiving public assistance in the amount of $318.00 per month for herself and her four year old twins. In September of 1981, Owens secured a job in a department store and sought a grant to purchase an automobile under Department regulations*fn1 in order to transport her twins to a day care center and herself to work. At the time of the request, Owens owned and operated a 1967 Plymouth.

The York County Assistance Office denied Owens' request and she appealed. A hearing was conducted and on December 8, 1981, the hearing officer affirmed the denial of the grant. On December 18, 1981, the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals affirmed

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 496]

    the hearing officer's determination and Owens filed a request for reconsideration with the Secretary. On January 29, 1982, the Secretary affirmed the decision of the Director. Appeal to this Court followed.

Department regulations restrict the availability of special grants to individuals who demonstrate need for the allowance. 55 Pa. Code ยง 175.23(c)(2) provides, in pertinent part:

A nonrecurring one-time grant may be authorized for an allowance to meet the actual minimum cost, subject to the specified maximum allowances for any of the following items provided an individual shows that these items are needed in order to apply for or accept employment or training*fn2 which will result in decreasing or preventing his need for assistance.

(iv) . . . [A] down payment on [an] automobile, subject to a maximum of $200 plus the cost of state inspection fee, automobile license plates, and driver's license if there is no other means of transportation to a job or training. . . . (Emphasis added.)

The hearing officer concluded that Owens had failed to demonstrate a need for the car allowance, finding that the 1967 Plymouth was inspected and

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 497]

    operable.*fn3 Owens argues that this finding, and hence the conclusion, are not supported by substantial evidence in the record.*fn4

At the hearing, Owens testified that although the 1967 Plymouth had an inspection sticker valid until October 31, 1981, the car's transmission sometimes slipped and she considered it dangerous to drive. She presented a written estimate dated October 2, 1981

[ 75 Pa. Commw. Page 498]

    which indicated that it would cost between $300 and $499 to overhaul the transmission. Owens testified that rather than spend the money on the older car she secured a loan and purchased a 1976 Pacer. No evidence controverting Owens' testimony regarding the condition of the Plymouth was introduced. Owens contends that the lack of evidence disputing her testimony compels a conclusion that she demonstrated need for the allowance. We disagree.

In cases of this sort, the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the testimony are for the hearing examiner to determine. Carr v. Department of Public Welfare, 50 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 375, 412 A.2d 1126 (1980). The hearing officer could therefore reject Owens' testimony as not credible and conclude that she had failed to show a need for the automobile grant. See id. The record does support the hearing officer's finding that the Plymouth was validly inspected and was being operated at the time Owens sought the grant. In fact, the record indicates that Owens did not seek to determine the cost of repairing the allegedly defective transmission in the Plymouth until after the request for a new car grant had been denied.

We find the adjudication of the hearing officer, affirmed by the Secretary, to be supported by substantial evidence.

Order

Now July 18, 1983, the order of the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare in the above referenced matter, dated January 29, 1982, is hereby affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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