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THELMA DICKSON v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/07/86)

decided: January 7, 1986.

THELMA DICKSON, 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: Thelma Dickson, Case No. 35774.

COUNSEL

Richard A. Katz, for petitioner.

John Kane, Counsel, with him, Carol A. Genduso and Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsels, for respondent.

Judges MacPhail and Doyle, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 89]

Thelma Dickson (Petitioner) petitions for review of an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) which affirmed the decision of the County Assistance Office (CAO) denying Petitioner food stamps for the period between March 28, 1984 and May 1, 1984. We reverse.

Petitioner submitted an application for benefits on February 16, 1984, at which time the CAO held a prescreen interview. Follow-up interviews were held on March 6, 1984 and March 20, 1984. The CAO denied Petitioner's application because of her inability to verify her identification, her most recent utility bills

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 90]

    and receipts, and whether a son lived at Petitioner's home.

Another appointment was scheduled on March 28, 1984. The CAO treated this appointment as a prescreen interview and informed Petitioner that a follow-up interview would be scheduled, at which time Petitioner could verify her claim. Petitioner refused to make yet another appointment. The CAO denied Petitioner's application on the basis that Petitioner voluntarily withdrew her application because she did not want to keep a follow-up appointment.*fn1

Petitioner timely appealed this decision, contending that the CAO should not have required Petitioner to attend another follow-up interview because she had already been to the CAO four times within a month and a half. At the hearing, Petitioner testified that she had all of the required verification on March 28, 1984. Petitioner's appeal was denied by the hearing officer, whose decision was affirmed by the Office of Hearings and Appeals on July 13, 1984. After Petitioner's request for reconsideration was denied, an appeal to this Court was taken.

Petitioner argues here that benefits should have been granted retroactive to March 28, 1984, contending that she had all the proper verification with her at that time. In response, DPW maintains that it is CAO procedure to conduct two interviews, a pre-screen interview and a follow-up interview. DPW avers that the purpose of the pre-screen interview is to "save time" -- i.e., correct application errors and inform applicants what verification would be required at the follow-up "eligibility" interview. DPW ...


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