Lawsuit filed against Social Security Administration for pandemic policies leading to reduced SSI payments

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are cash benefits provided to older adults and individuals with disabilities. As of 2021, there are around 8 million people who receive SSI benefits. To qualify for SSI benefits, you have to meet certain income and asset requirements. Additionally, if you qualify for SSI benefits but your financial situation changes, you must inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the change in your financial situation and they may conclude that you are no longer eligible for SSI benefits.

Before the pandemic, individuals would report changes in their financial status, in person at their local Social Security offices. Due to the pandemic, in March 2020, SSA shut down its offices, making it challenging for SSI recipients to communicate with Social Security and report changes in their financial situation. SSA started sending overpayment notices to several individuals stating that their benefits were going to be reduced or terminated.

Thousands of individuals’ were eager to contest those notices because their benefits should not have been reduced. However, they were unable to inform Social Security due to the office closures and other means of communicating with SSA proved to be ineffective. Further, even some individuals who were able to communicate with Social Security, found their benefits reduced or terminated, as their paperwork had not been processed. Thus, thousands of individuals have been adversely impacted by their benefits being reduced or terminated.

In August 2020, Social Security created a waiver process through which individuals would not encounter penalties in cases of overpayment. However, the waiver process has had its own set of challenges and many individuals who tried to use the waiver process were unsuccessful.

As a result, on September 15, 2021, New York Legal Assistance Group, Justice in Aging, and Arnold and Porter filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of current and future SSI recipients who received notices of overpayment. Plaintiffs are requesting that Social Security amend the waiver process and discontinue sending overpayment notices while their offices are closed.