Appeal from the Order of the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of: Diane Vasquez, Case No. 360068815.
Susan Wood, for petitioner.
Jeffrey P. Schmoyer, with him, John Kane and Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Rogers and Barry, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Barry.
Diane Vasquez (petitioner) has filed a petition for review of an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) affirming the decision of a hearing examiner denying her public assistance during the period of time between her pre-screen interview on October 10, 1984 and October 16, 1984, the date on which her application for assistance was approved by her County Assistance Office (CAO).
The petitioner applied to her CAO for assistance for herself and her four children under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Upon receiving the petitioner's application form, the CAO scheduled a pre-screen interview for the petitioner on October 10, 1984.
At the pre-screen interview, a case worker informed the petitioner that she would need to verify certain qualifying circumstances by the time of her application interview, which was then scheduled for October 16, 1984. The petitioner obtained the required verifications on October 10, and on that day took them to the CAO together with a letter from her lawyer requesting that the petitioner be authorized for assistance immediately. The CAO did not comply with the request and informed the petitioner that she would have to wait for her application interview on October 16 when the application process would be completed.
At the application interview on October 16, the petitioner signed an application form. The CAO determined that the petitioner was eligible for assistance, effective October 16.
The petitioner appealed the CAO's order fixing her entitlement to assistance from October 16 to the DPW, contending that since she had met all conditions of eligibility on October 10, her assistance should commence on that date. After a hearing, the DPW examiner denied the appeal and the DPW affirmed. This appeal followed.
AFDC is a Federally financed program and State laws and regulations must conform to Federal laws and regulations. The petitioner contends that DPW's regulations violate Federal laws and regulations. The pertinent State, or DPW, regulations are found at Title 55 of the Pennsylvania Code:
(b) Pre-screen interview. The worker will prescreen each applicant prior to an application interview. The purposes of the prescreen interview are as follows:
(1) To explain that an individual applying for assistance shall complete an application containing information required to establish eligibility and the amount of the grant. . . .
(2) To make certain the application form is complete and that the information provided accurately represents what the applicant wants to say about his circumstances. . . .
(3) If the application form is not complete or substantiating evidence is required, prompt action will be taken to obtain the needed information.
(4) To determine whether the information provided needs substantiation and what, if any, additional information or substantiating evidence is needed to establish eligibility.
(5) To explain that as a condition of eligibility for assistance, all applicants and recipients of assistance shall cooperate with the Department in providing and verifying information necessary for the Department to determine initial or continued eligibility.
(6) To inform the applicant of the conditions of eligibility which must be met and of the factual information necessary to establish ...