Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of: Ronald Ream, Case No. 41694.
Richard G. Fishman, Keystone Legal Services, Inc., for petitioner.
Jean E. Graybill, with her, Mary Frances Grabowski, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Rogers and MacPhail, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 191]
Ronald M. Ream petitions for review of an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) which upheld a determination that he had received an overpayment of General Assistance (GA) cash benefits in the amount of $332.10 subject to recovery under 55 Pa. Code § 255.4(a). We reverse.
The following facts are pertinent. Ream had been receiving GA cash benefits for himself since June 30, 1980. On February 24, 1983, the Centre County Assistance Office (CAO) notified him of its determination that he was classified as a transitionally needy person under Section 432(3)(iii) of the Public Welfare
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 192]
Code, Act of June 13, 1967, P.L. 31, as amended, 62 P.S. § 432(3)(iii), and was eligible to receive only ninety days of GA cash benefits. Ream appealed the CAO determination and contended that he qualified as chronically needy under Section 432(3)(i)(C) of the Public Welfare Code, 62 P.S. § 432(3)(i)(C), in that he claimed that he was physically unable to work. The CAO continued GA cash benefits to him during the pendency of that appeal. A hearing was held on that appeal on May 25, 1983 and, on May 30, 1983, an adjudication was issued by the hearing officer which upheld the CAO determination of Ream as transitionally needy. Final Administrative Action on that appeal was taken by DPW on June 21, 1983 which affirmed the examiner's adjudication. No appeal was taken from the June 21, 1983 DPW order and Ream's GA cash benefits were terminated as of August 2, 1983.
Subsequent to his first appeal, Ream submitted verification of a work history which qualified him as chronically needy under Section 432(3)(i)(H) of the Public Welfare Code, 62 P.S. § 432(3)(i)(H), as of August 22, 1983. That provision classifies as chronically needy those persons who have been previously employed full time for at least forty-eight months out of the previous eight years and have exhausted their unemployment compensation benefits prior to applying for assistance. As a result of this classification, Ream was qualified to receive GA cash benefits for twelve months out of the year. Section 432(3)(ii) of the Public Welfare Code, 62 P.S. § 432(3)(ii). On October 8, 1983, the Bureau of Claim Settlement (BCS), based upon information received from the CAO, forwarded to Ream a notice of overpayment and demand for repayment for GA cash benefits he had received from April 5, 1983 through August 1, 1983 amounting to $688.00. Ream filed a timely appeal of the BCS notice and a hearing was held on May 17, 1984. On
[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 193]
July 12, 1984, the hearing officer issued an adjudication which sustained in part his appeal finding that DPW was limited to recovering only that part of the overpayment which was received during the ninety days after Ream had filed his March 1, 1983 appeal in that the adjudication was not issued within ninety days from the date of the appeal as required by 55 Pa. Code §§ 275.4(c) and (d). The examiner determined that the GA cash benefits issued after May 31, 1983 must be classified as interim assistance which is granted automatically when an appeal is not adjudicated within ninety days and was, therefore, not subject to restitution. The adjudication did, however, uphold the BCS claim for restitution of the GA cash benefits issued from April 5, 1983 through May 31, 1983 amounting to $332.10. Final Administration Action was taken by DPW on this appeal on June 18, 1984 which upheld the adjudication of the examiner.
In this appeal, Ream contends that DPW is precluded from seeking restitution of GA cash benefits paid to a claimant initially found only transitionally needy but who is later determined to be chronically needy under a different category than that under which he initially sought chronically needy status. We are aware, of course, that a public assistance applicant bears the burden of demonstrating that he or she is eligible for the benefits sought. McCartney v. Department of Public Welfare, 71 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 116, 455 A.2d 222 (1983). Our scope of review of a DPW adjudication is limited to a determination of whether necessary findings are supported by substantial evidence, an error of law committed, or whether any constitutional ...