There’s no doubt that 2020 and 2021 were unique years that upended many people’s lives. Those who rely on government benefits were more than inconvenienced. In some cases, they couldn’t get the benefits they needed to care for themselves and their families during this chaotic time.
Among those were the millions of people receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices throughout the country were closed for over two years, and there weren’t enough employees handling online and telephone questions and issues to adequately make up for these closures.
What did the lawsuit claim?
A federal class-action lawsuit filed against the SSA in 2021 claimed that the agency wrongfully reduced or ended benefits for over two million SSI recipients who didn’t provide requested information or who challenged decisions made by the agency during 2020 and 2021. In some cases, applicant or recipient paperwork simply wasn’t processed, likely due to the closures mentioned above.
Further, some SSI recipients were overpaid starting in March 2020 and continuing until as recently as April 2023. Then when the SSA discovered the overpayments, they sought repayment of those funds – often from people who didn’t realize they’d been overpaid and had already spent the much-needed funds.
The lawsuit, which had five named plaintiffs, was settled before the end of last year. As the head of one disability advocacy group said, “This settlement does what SSA should have done in the first place: make sure that SSI recipients are not penalized or denied benefits essential for their survival, as the result of circumstances that were outside of their control.”
What does this mean for SSI recipients?
Some 250,000 SSI recipients are expected to receive benefits owed to them as a result of this ruling. Others will receive instructions on how to request a waiver for their overpayments. However, the SSA isn’t expected to send out those notices for more than a year.
The wheels of the federal bureaucracy can move excruciatingly slowly, even during “normal” times. Whether you’re dealing with missing payments, requests for refunds of overpayments or a denial of your application for SSI benefits, you can make things easier on yourself by seeking legal guidance to protect your rights and the benefits to which you’re entitled.