PETITION FOR REVIEW. (DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE)
David L. Hill, for petitioner.
Mary Connie Walsh, Asst. Counsel, with her, Cynthia White Williams, Asst. Counsel, for respondent.
Colins and Smith, JJ., and Barbieri, Senior Judge.
[ 129 Pa. Commw. Page 20]
Linda C. Moore (petitioner) petitions for review of an order of the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Department of Public Welfare (OHA) which affirmed a decision of a Hearing Officer dismissing petitioner's appeal of the suspension of her benefits under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program on the basis of untimeliness. We reverse.
The Philadelphia County Assistance Office (CAO) suspended petitioner's AFDC benefits on June 16, 1987, for her failure to participate in the Pennsylvania Employables Program (PEP). On July 1, 1987, petitioner reapplied for benefits which were reinstated effective July 8, 1987.
On August 31, 1987, petitioner filed an appeal of the suspension of her benefits with the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). The hearing was held on this matter before Hearing Officer Thomas G. Devlin on October 14, 1987. Petitioner testified that she sustained injuries to her back and neck as a result of falling on a patch of ice in January, 1987. She also testified that she received a letter from CAO caseworker, Mr. William Golden, regarding participation
[ 129 Pa. Commw. Page 21]
in PEP. She indicated that she telephoned Mr. Golden and explained that her injuries had temporarily disabled her and that she would be unable to keep an appointment with PEP on March 26, 1987. Mr. Golden advised petitioner that she must keep the appointment in order to stay on public assistance. He requested that she send him a physician's note confirming her disability. However, he did not send petitioner a Medical Assessment Form which, if completed by her doctor, could have excused her from participation in PEP.
Petitioner also testified that in March of 1987, she received a notice that she was going to be sanctioned.*fn1 However, by letter dated March 20, 1987, Mr. Golden indicated to petitioner that he had mistakenly sent the notice and that she should disregard it. Petitioner further testified that she received no notice thereafter concerning any sanction. Nevertheless, the sanction of suspension of her benefits was instituted effective June 16, 1987.
Petitioner stated that she met with Ms. Zully Sanchez, an income maintenance caseworker with CAO, for her six-month redetermination of eligibility. At that time, petitioner was informed that she could have been excused from PEP by having her doctor complete a Medical Assessment Form. Thereafter, petitioner had the form completed by her doctor and once it was returned to Ms. Sanchez, the suspension of her benefits was lifted.
Ms. Sanchez, the sole representative of CAO at the hearing, verified the testimony of petitioner as to the events of their meeting. Ms. Sanchez further testified that she received a Form 162A from PEP concerning the suspension of petitioner's benefits. She introduced a copy of this form into evidence at the hearing and indicated the procedure which is normally followed: "[w]hen we would get a notice from PEP ...