Economic Security

Hart v. Colvin – Three plaintiffs who were denied of disability benefits sued Social Security for using faulty medical reports. The suit was filed in federal district court in San Francisco against the Social Security Administration (SSA) by three plaintiffs represented by Morrison & Foerster LLP, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. The plaintiffs are sued Social Security because of the agency’s continued reliance on medical reports from a doctor who has been disqualified. The grossly deficient reports were based on cursory examinations (often lasting ten minutes or less), referenced tests that were never performed, and were inconsistent with plaintiffs’ medical records. On the basis of these faulty reports, plaintiffs who were no longer able to work were denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, essential to their well-being.

Burlingame v Colvin – In March 2014, the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) joined Disability Rights Oregon and Oregon Law Center in filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of hundreds people who stood to lose their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits April 1. This situation is the result of a Social Security Administration (SSA) action disqualifying Safety Net of Oregon as a representative payee for some 1,000 people. Safety Net of Oregon is under investigation by the SSA Inspector General for $600,000 in unaccounted beneficiary funds.  As a result, many in the class faced losing their income until they managed to acquire a new payee.

US District Judge Marco A. Hernández issued a restraining order on March 26 preventing the Social Security Administration from suspending benefits for affected beneficiaries. Click here to read an update.

Clark v. Astrue – As many as 140,000 Americans nationwide are getting their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits restored as a result of an order issued by Judge Sidney H. Stein in a federal court in Manhattan on April 13, 2012. The benefits in question date back to October 2006 and may total $1 billion.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) filed the outlines of its implementation plan with the court on June 12, 2012.

The order is the culmination of more than five years of litigation in Clark v. Astrue – Docket No. 06-15521 (S.D.N.Y.) – a case brought against the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) challenging its practice of relying exclusively on outstanding probation and parole warrants as sufficient evidence as a basis for denying them benefits.

SSA reports that by the end of September 2013, it had processed 68,000 cases. The agency says it has now issued payments to essentially all those class members who were receiving Social Security benefits and expects to complete payments to all SSI class members by March 31, 2015.




Martinez v Astrue (U.S. District Court/Northern District of California) –  This action challenged SSA’s interpretation of the Social Security Act provision which restricts payment of persons who are “fleeing to avoid prosecution or custody or confinement after conviction” for a felony. SSA policy is to suspend or deny Social Security, SSI and Special Veterans Benefits benefits anytime there is an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony, regardless whether or not the individual has any knowledge of the criminal charges against them. SSA agreed to a settlement for the 200,000 member class and agreed that after April 1 2009, it would no longer suspend or deny benefits unless it was in relation to an escape, flight escape or flight to avoid. The deadline for implementing the settlement agreement was extended to June 2011 so that the agency could reach more class members.

American Council of the Blind, et al v. Astrue (U.S. District Court/Northern District of California) — The case was brought under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 on behalf of 3 million blind or visually impaired individuals receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A favorable decision led to the Social Security Administration agreeing to provide notices in large print and audio CD formats beginning in 2011.