Settlement Will Send Millions To SSI Beneficiaries
More than 2 million Supplemental Security Income recipients, including many with disabilities, who had their benefits reduced or discontinued during the pandemic will see relief under a new settlement.
The Social Security Administration has agreed to automatically waive many overpayments that occurred between March and September 2020 and the agency will refund individuals, as appropriate, if they have already repaid the funds. Remedies are also available for those who had benefit overpayments as recently as April 2023.
The steps are part of a nationwide settlement reached late last year to resolve a 2021 federal lawsuit that accused the Social Security Administration of wrongly slashing or cutting off SSI benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The class-action suit known as Campos v. Kijakazi alleged that beneficiaries were penalized after they were unable to provide information to Social Security or challenge the agency’s decisions because the agency stopped processing certain paperwork and closed its field offices for more than two years during the pandemic.
The suit included a woman who was found ineligible for SSI because the agency incorrectly counted money she received for an adopted child with disabilities. Another plaintiff saw her eligibility impacted after health concerns and stay-at-home orders left her unable to withdraw funds from her bank accounts. They are among millions of SSI recipients who had their benefits reduced or discontinued, according to the New York Legal Assistance Group, Justice in Aging and the law firm Arnold & Porter, which brought the suit on behalf of five SSI beneficiaries.
“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,” said Michelle Spadafore, director of the Disability Advocacy Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group. “This settlement provides crucial relief by putting money back into the pockets of SSI recipients who are still recovering from the tremendous challenges they faced during a global pandemic.”
Nearly a quarter million SSI recipients are expected to have benefits credited back to their accounts automatically under the agreement.
In addition, the Social Security Administration will issue internal guidance by late February clarifying that COVID-19-related circumstances should be considered when faulting beneficiaries for overpayments that occurred between March 2020 and April 2023.
The agency will mail a notice by the spring of 2025 to SSI recipients assessed an overpayment between March 2020 and April 2023 with information about how to request a waiver and what COVID-19 related factors may be relevant. This is expected to benefit another 2 million SSI recipients.
The Social Security Administration declined to comment on the settlement.
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