Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare, in the case of Appeal Of: Warren Mulgrew, Case No. 64F0002.
H. Barry Bier, for petitioner.
Edward P. Carey, for respondent.
Judges Colins and McGinley, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri. Judge Colins dissents.
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 450]
Warren Mulgrew (Mulgrew) petitions for review of the March 11, 1988 final order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), Office of Hearings and Appeals, which denied Mulgrew's request for financial abatement or modification of liability assessed against him for care at Farview State Hospital (Farview) during an involuntary hospitalization.
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 451]
Issues presented for review pertain to the scope of DPW's duty to assist a resident of a state mental institution who requests an abatement or modification of assessed liability; the exempt or non-exempt status of service-related veterans' administration disability benefits (VA benefits) where DPW seeks only to assess liability; and prejudice, if any, due to delay between a request for a fair hearing and DPW's decision. The final order of DPW's Office of Hearings and Appeals is affirmed.
Mulgrew, a recipient of VA and Social Security disability (SSD) benefits for service-related schizophrenia, was involuntarily committed to Farview on August 13, 1986 by Allegheny County to determine his competency to stand trial on criminal charges. Allegheny County was billed a per diem rate from August 13, 1986 to November 10, 1986. After a finding of incompetency, Mulgrew was returned to Farview.
DPW thereafter unsuccessfully attempted to elicit financial information from Mulgrew, via his son, representative payee for Mulgrew's VA and SSD benefits. DPW subsequently sent various notices of assessment to Mulgrew's son pursuant to Section 501 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 (Commonwealth Act)*fn1 for Mulgrew's care at Farview for the period November 11, 1986 through August 31, 1987. These assessments were against both Mulgrew's VA and SSD benefits.*fn2
Mulgrew petitioned the Division of Institutional Collections (Division) for review of the liability assessed against his VA and SSD benefits, asserting that state and federal benefits are insulated from Commonwealth claims for care in a state mental institution and requesting
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 452]
an abatement or modification of assessed liability. The Division denied Mulgrew's request and, on March 13, 1987, Mulgrew requested a hearing with DPW's Office of Hearings and Appeals. After administrative hearings on September 17, 1987 and January 19, 1988, a DPW Hearing Officer found that Mulgrew failed to present evidence to substantiate his claims and that federal benefits are not exempt from Commonwealth claims for care and ...