Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Lois Ferretti, dated January 3, 1983.
Edward Van Stevenson, Jr., for petitioner.
Myra W. Sacks, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges MacPhail and Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
Lois Ferretti (petitioner) is appealing a Department of Public Welfare (DPW) order which denied her appeal from a decision of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BVS). BVS terminated petitioner's clothing and maintenance allowances and reduced the transportation allowances she was receiving while attending vocational training courses.
Petitioner was approved by BVS for vocational rehabilitation assistance on August 25, 1980. Her vocational goal was nursing administration, for which BVS, through an individual written rehabilitation plan (IWRP), sponsored her attendance at Duquesne University. An IWRP includes reimbursement for expenses incurred in reaching a vocational goal. Petitioner's IWRP consisted of reimbursement by BVS of $100 per semester for clothing, $225 per semester for personal maintenance and $2.40 per day for transportation.
Effective July 1, 1982, however, BVS adopted cost containment measures because of decreased Federal funding, and on June 21, 1982, BVS notified petitioner that they would no longer pay for clothing or personal maintenance. On July 28, 1982, BVS informed petitioner that instead of paying a bus fare of $2.40 per day, they would pay for a monthly bus pass plus a daily deposit fare.
On appeal, petitioner's primary contention is that her August, 1980 IWRP with BVS constituted a binding four year contract to pay clothing, maintenance
and transportation costs, with the condition that she maintain a passing (C) grade average. Petitioner claims that she fulfilled her responsibilities under this "contract" and BVS is, therefore, obligated to comply with the original IWRP terms. We disagree.
As a program funded jointly by federal and state governments, BVS must comply with both federal and state regulations. Neither the federal nor the state system treats the IWRP as a contractual agreement which binds the state or the vocational rehabilitation client.
The creation of an IWRP is expressly mandated by federal statute and regulation.*fn1 Appropriate federal regulations require state programs to assure periodic updating*fn2 and review of IWRP's "as often as necessary."*fn3 Furthermore, various sections of the federally promulgated Rehabilitation Services Manual (Manual) specifically provide for amendment and change of IWRP's. Section 1507.04 of the Manual states that additions to and amendments of initial individualized programs should be made "as and when indicated." Section 1507.07(B) of the Manual provides that the terms and conditions of such programs should be subject to change as a result of changing conditions, and Section 1507.11 recognizes that an IWRP is "by its nature . . . ...