Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of: Michael Sheets, Case No. 57266.
David A. Scholl, for petitioner.
Carol A. Genduso, Assistant Counsel, with her, John Kane, for respondent.
Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
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This is an appeal from an adjudication of the Department of Public Welfare (Department) which affirmed the decision of the Lehigh County Board of Assistance (CBA) denying Petitioner general assistance benefits.
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 437]
On April 6, 1983, Petitioner, Michael Sheets, reapplied for general assistance benefits which had been discontinued for reasons unrelated to this appeal. Petitioner requested classification as a "chronically needy person" under Section 432(3)(i) of the Public Welfare Code (Act),*fn1 62 P.S. § 432(3)(i), on the basis of a physical handicap which prevented him from working.*fn2 Pursuant to Section 141.61(d)(1)(iii)(C)(I) of the Public Assistance Manual (Manual), 55 Pa. Code 141.61(d)(1)(iii)(C)(I), the CBA classified Petitioner as a transitionally needy person on April 12, 1983 and authorized benefits for ninety days pending documentation of his physical handicap. At the time of the authorization, and throughout the ninety day period, the CBA repeatedly informed Petitioner that medical documentation was necessary for his status to be reclassified as chronically needy, and his benefits to be continued beyond ninety days. Despite these notices, Petitioner failed to submit medical documentation within ninety days. On July 28, 1983 the CBA notified Petitioner that his ninety day eligibility as a transitionally needy person had expired, and on August 3, 1983, benefits were terminated. On August 15, 1983, Petitioner submitted a completed medical form from his treating physician which indicated that he was fully employable. The next day Petitioner appealed to the Department from the CBA's termination of his general assistance benefits.
At the hearing Petitioner argued that the August 15 medical report submitted by his own treating physician was erroneous and should be disregarded. Petitioner presented evidence which attempted to show
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 438]
that Petitioner was medically disabled as of the date of his initial application. The Hearing Examiner determined, however, that the issue before her was not whether Petitioner was medically eligible for chronically needy benefits but rather whether Petitioner established his eligibility within the ninety day time period required by the Manual. Finding that Petitioner had not documented his eligibility within this ninety day time period, the Hearing Examiner concluded that the CBA acted in accordance with Department regulations in terminating Petitioner's benefits. Petitioner's request for reconsideration was denied by the Department on April 16, 1984, and this appeal followed.
On appeal to this Court,*fn3 Petitioner argues that the Hearing Examiner erred in applying the relevant Department Regulations. At issue is the interpretation of Section 141.61(d)(1)(iii)(C)(I), of the Manual, which establishes a procedure for chronically needy persons who cannot document their medical eligibility within the thirty days required under the Act.*fn4 Subsection (I), which sets forth one of two alternative procedures states, in pertinent part:
The applicant or recipient will register at OES and be classified as transitionally needy until documentation is provided, if such applicant is otherwise eligible for transitionally needy assistance. . . . Assistance will be ...