Call it a $500 million glitch.
A judge in Northern California has ordered the Social Security Administration to pay half a billion dollars in benefits to more than 80,000 people who were wrongly denied.
The ruling comes after a class-action lawsuit over an SSA computer program that incorrectly flagged the users as criminals. Under a 1996 law, criminals with outstanding criminal warrants may not collect federal benefits.
Specifically, 52-year-old Redwood City, California resident Rosa Martinez was denied her benefits of $870 per month due to a pending drug warrant. But the warrant actually belonged to another Rosa Martinez, residing in Miami, Florida.
When she was unable to prove her innocence in the eyes of the SSA, Ms. Martinez responded with the class-action lawsuit, filed under Martinez v. Astrue. Now, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken, based in Oakland, California, has ordered the SSA to pay $500 million to users who were wrongly denied by the glitch since 2007.
Furthermore, more than 120,000 of those flagged are eligible to re-apply. In recent years, district cour judges have determined that loss of benefits based on database searches is unlawful.
Not only were these users subjected to the humiliation of being labeled as criminals, but their benefits, possibly their only source of income, were taken away. Many recipients of social security retirement and disability income depend on their monthly checks to survive.
On April 1, 2009, the warrant checks were ceased.
According to the Social Security Administration, the average wait time to receive benefits is 500 days. Most applicants for Social Security Disability are denied before receiving benefits.
Those unable to work due to a medical condition or injury might be entitled to receive disability benefits. The best way to proceed with your claim is to contact a lawyer with experience in dealing with the Social Security Administration.
A qualified attorney can help shepherd a case through the complex system, preparing the claimant for hearings. He can also guide the appearl process should the initial application be denied.
Professionals working in the Social Security system will also be aware of problem issues, such as the problematic warrant-identification system. Equipped with this knowledge, a lawyer can troubleshoot any potential pitfalls in the application and appeal process.
The Social Security Administration pays benefits to more than 356,000 local households.
If you're considering filing an application or appeal for benefits, contact the Indiana disability attorneys of Keller & Keller.