Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of: Josephine Augelli, Case No. 59177.
Sylvia H. Hahn, for petitioner.
Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
This is an appeal by Josephine Augelli (Petitioner) from an order of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) which terminated cash and food stamp assistance to Petitioner and her child. For the reasons which follow, we reverse.
Petitioner was a recipient of cash assistance and food stamps for herself and one child in Lackawanna County. Following receipt of information that Petitioner's husband, Frank Augelli, resided with Petitioner at her address, DPW advised Petitioner of its intention to discontinue cash assistance and food stamps for failure to verify information required to determine eligibility, i.e. information regarding the husband's income. 55 Pa. Code §§ 133.23(a) and 541.3(h)(5). Petitioner appealed*fn1 and a hearing was held on August 4, 1982. The hearing examiner entered an order sustaining Petitioner's appeal and it was adopted as the order of the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals. The Lackawanna County Assistance Office requested reconsideration by the Secretary of Public Welfare. On October 19, 1982, the Secretary granted the request and on November 15, 1982 entered a final order sustaining the appeal and denying assistance. Appeal to this Court followed.
DPW regulations place the burden on applicants and recipients of welfare assistance to verify conditions of eligibility at the time of application and
periodically thereafter whenever eligibility is redetermined. See 55 Pa. Code §§ 125.21(b), 133.23(a)(2) and 133.23(b). As a general policy, the regulations provide:
The client will be the primary source of information in establishing eligibility for financial assistance. As a condition of eligibility the client will be required, to the exent that he is able, to substantiate the information he has provided by documentary evidence or such other means as may serve to establish the truth of his statements. (Emphasis added.)
55 Pa. Code § 201.1(1). Here, Petitioner testified before the hearing examiner that her husband does not reside with her. Petitioner's son corroborated his mother's testimony that his father did not reside with them. Petitioner's daughter testified that, even as a child, she seldom saw her father and that he did not support his family. Petitioner further testified that she did not know the whereabouts of her husband or his current address. Her daughter testified that when asked to give an address, her father would laugh and state that he did not believe in addresses. We are at a loss to conceive what documentation or other means Petitioner might have had available under these peculiar circumstances to substantiate the husband/father's absence from the household.
The hearing examiner found, weighing all the testimony presented, that Petitioner's husband is not residing with her. DPW regulations provide that "no findings of fact made by the Hearing Examiner will be subject to reversal." 55 Pa. Code § 275.4(h)(4)(ii). We have held that the hearing examiner's findings may not be set aside if they are supported by ...