Martinez v. Astrue and Clark v. Astrue Updates
Martinez v. Astrue - On September 24, 2009, the United States District Court in the Northern District of California approved a nationwide class action settlement agreement in the case of Martinez v. Astrue. The Martinez settlement changes the types of felony arrest warrants that SSA will use to prohibit payment of Social Security, SSI, and Special Veterans benefits. This settlement does not apply to persons whose benefits were denied or stopped because of an arrest warrant due to a parole or probation violation. Effective April 1, 2009, Social Security began suspending or denying benefits based on outstanding felony arrest warrants only for the crimes of flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, escape from custody, and flight-escape. It also began applying the new policy when considering a person’s suitability to serve as a representative payee.
For Class Members whose benefits were suspended or denied or had an administrative appeal determination on or after January 1, 2007, or who had administrative appeals challenging the suspension of their benefits pending on August 11, 2008, the SSA will reinstate benefits and pay any benefits withheld back to the first month of suspension. It also will repay any sums collected on an overpayment if these Class Members had been overpaid benefits based upon the previous policy. For Class Members who get SSI, SSA will first re-determine the Class Member’s non-medical eligibility criteria under its usual policies.
For Class Members whose benefits were suspended or denied between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2006, and who did not have administrative appeals pending on August 11, 2008, SSA will stop collecting overpayments and will remove any remaining overpayment balances which were imposed based on the previous policy. It will notify Pre-2007 Settlement Class Members of the settlement by mailing them a notice to the address in the SSA records. It is very important that clients make sure that the Social Security Administration has a current address for them.
For Class Members who were not receiving benefits as of April 1, 2009 due to the application of the previous fugitive felon policy, the notice sent will advise them to contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make an appointment to file a new application for benefits. If the claimant does so within six months of the date on the notice, SSA will use an application date of April 1, 2009 as the protective filing date for the claim.
Clark v. Astrue - On March 19, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot suspend a recipient’s benefits based solely on an outstanding warrant for a probation or parole violation. In overturning the district court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals held that an outstanding warrant is not sufficient evidence that an SSA beneficiary is in fact violating probation or parole. The case has been remanded for further proceedings.
Filed on December 26, 2006, this national class action lawsuit has the potential to restore Social Security benefits to tens of thousands of disabled and retired Americans. The SSA uses a crude computer-matching system to suspend the benefits of people who appear to have failed to comply with probation or parole. No actual verification of these results is done before summarily suspending desperately needed benefits. Nor does SSA double-check to guard against mistaken identity and identity-theft. People with psychiatric disabilities are especially vulnerable because they have a harder time dealing with SSA bureaucracy and are more likely to have had police interactions. http://www.urbanjustice.org/ujc/litigation/mental.html