Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of: Mary Ann Otero, Case No. 53726, dated November 28, 1984.
David A. Scholl, for petitioner.
John Kane, Chief Counsel, with him, Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.
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Maryann Otero, Petitioner, appeals here the final order upon reconsideration of the Department of Public Welfare's (DPW) Office of Hearings and Appeals denying Petitioner's appeal from the denial by the Northampton
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County Assistance Office (CAO) of Petitioner's application for public assistance.
The factual background of this appeal is as follows. Petitioner was receiving public assistance under the name Maryann Bendekovitz as of December 15, 1982, when the CAO received a telephone complaint regarding Petitioner's receipt of $7,500 in life insurance benefits from the death of her son. Under subsection (b) of Section 183.64 of the Public Assistance Manual, 55 Pa. Code § 183.64(b), windfalls including insurance benefits are considered lump sum income which, if in excess of the recipient's calculated standard of need,*fn1 will render the recipient ineligible for public assistance no later than the payment month corresponding with the budget month in which the payment was received and for future months. The total period of ineligibility is determined by dividing the lump sum payment less allowable deductions*fn2 by the standard of need. After subtracting from the lump sum insurance benefit the costs of burying Petitioner's son, the CAO determined that Petitioner's period of ineligibility was approximately 17.78 months. Thus, on January 17, 1983, in accordance with 55 Pa. Code § 133.4(a) the CAO sent Petitioner written notice that the CAO proposed to discontinue Petitioner's public assistance benefits effective February 3, 1983 due to financial ineligibility such ineligibility to extend to April, 1984.
Petitioner did not appeal the CAO's proposed action, and on February 3, 1983, her benefits were discontinued. On October 20, 1983, Petitioner, under her married name, reapplied along with her spouse for
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public assistance. The CAO ruled Petitioner's spouse eligible for receipt of public assistance; on October 20, 1983 Petitioner's application was denied based on the prior unappealed CAO action of January 17, 1983 terminating Petitioner's benefits until April, 1984.
Petitioner appealed the CAO's denial of her October 20, 1983 application for public assistance and a fair hearing was scheduled for April 16, 1984. The hearing officer in her adjudication recognized two issues raised in the appeal: (1) whether Petitioner was erroneously underpaid benefits from February, 1983 to October, 1983, and (2) whether Petitioner's application for public assistance of October 20, 1983 was correctly denied. With regard to the first issue, Petitioner argued that an error in payment of benefits may be rectified provided the error is brought to the CAO's attention within one year. 55 Pa. Code § 227.24(d)(ii)(B)(II). The alleged error was the CAO's assumption that because the proceeds from the insurance policy had been paid to Petitioner, that Petitioner was the beneficiary ...