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COMFORT PITTS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/08/86)

decided: July 8, 1986.

COMFORT PITTS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, in case of Comfort Pitts, No. 23-0123 668-C, dated May 24, 1985.

COUNSEL

Margaret A. Lenzi, for petitioner.

Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Rogers and Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 557]

This is an appeal by Comfort Pitts from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) terminating

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 558]

    public assistance benefits for her failure to petition a court of common pleas for the release of trust funds held in trust for one of her children.

Ms. Pitts promptly appealed an October 2, 1984 advance notice that benefits would be terminated, effective October 26, 1984, and a fair hearing was held on January 8, 1985. Benefits were continued pending outcome of the appeal.*fn1 The hearing officer found as a matter of fact that Ms. Pitts was an active recipient under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (AFDC) and was receiving benefits for herself and her four children.*fn2 On June 6, 1984 Ms. Pitts reported to the County Assistance Office (CAO) that a personal injury suit was pending from an accident of July 24, 1982 wherein her minor daughter had been hit by an automobile. Also on June 6, 1984 Ms. Pitts signed forms acknowledging liability for reimbursement of assistance pending settlement of the personal injury suit. On June 27, 1984 a settlement in the amount of $3,221.67 (net after attorney's fees) was made to Ms. Pitts as trustee for her minor daughter; the CAO was notified by Ms. Pitts of the settlement on July 23, 1984.

The settlement had been accepted by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. No. 2039 which governs compromises of minors. The common pleas court issued an order directing that the settlement sum be placed in an insured savings account or certificate to be marked "NOT TO BE WITHDRAWN UNTIL SAID MINOR REACHES THE AGE

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 559]

OF EIGHTEEN (18) OR WITHOUT ORDER OF A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION." Ms. Pitts complied with this order. At some point between July 23, 1984 and August 15, 1984 Ms. Pitts was informed by the CAO that to maintain her eligibility for assistance she must pursue an effort to convert this potential resource by petitioning the court for release of the trust fund. On August 15, 1984 the CAO issued a letter reiterating its position. This letter stated in pertinent part:

[Y]ou must pursue potential resources for both yourself and your child. Accordingly, it is mandatory that you petition the court to use [your daughter's] ...


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