$500M Gov't Settlement Could Aid 200K Social Security-Eligible Individuals

A federal judge in San Francisco gave preliminary approval today to a plan by the Social Security Administration to pay $500 million to settle a class action brought on behalf of 80,000 recipients who lost their benefits, starting in 2007, after being classified as individuals using government benefits to flee arrest.

While this provision of the Social Security Act might have seemed like a good idea, the SSA administered it via a computer program that simply matched names of those named in arrest warrants to those receiving social security, explains a PR Newswire reprint of a National Senior Citizens Law Center press release.

“The vast majority of class members were not fleeing at all; many never knew that criminal charges were pending against them, let alone that a warrant had been issued,” says attorney Gerald McIntyre of the NSCLC, which represents plaintiffs in the litigation.

In addition to the 80,000 recipients who are due withheld benefits, another 120,000 individuals who were reportedly told between 2000 and 2006 that they weren’t eligible for benefits may now re-establish their eligibility.

A 2008 NSCLC press release gives additional details about the Martinez v. Astrue case.

Additional coverage:

Disability Rights California (May 2009): “About the Settlement of Martinez v. Astrue”

Wall Street Journal (sub. req.): “Social Security Administration to Pay $500 Million in Settlement”

Updated Aug. 12 to add link to subsequent Wall Street Journal article.

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