Focused on class members with open claims
When: August 10, 2017
Hart v. Berryhill (Colvin) is a Social Security and SSI disability class action that challenged the Social Security Administration’s continued use of medical reports from Dr. Frank Chen even after he had been disqualified from performing medical examinations for Social Security because of serious deficiencies in his reports. The settlement, which was approved on April 25, 2017, provides an opportunity for new disability determinations for many class members.
Implementation of the settlement has begun. Social Security mailed the first wave of notices to class members with open claims to inform them of their rights under the settlement in mid-July. A second, larger wave of notices for people whose claims have been closed will likely go out in mid-September.
To help advocates in assisting Hart class members, Justice in Aging is holding a number of trainings on the process of obtaining relief under the settlement. This first training focuses on the first wave of notices that went out in July 2017 to class members with open claims (meaning that there was an active administrative appeal in process on the claim involving the Dr. Chen report, as of April 25, 2017). It briefly reviews the settlement relief for all class members, and then goes into detail about the relief for class members with open claims, and considerations about whether to request relief.
You can read more about the case and the settlement agreement here.
Gerald McIntyre, Special Counsel, Justice in Aging
Trinh Phan, Senior Staff Attorney, Justice in Aging
Why do many clients receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits only receive $490 each month instead of $735, and what can we do about it? In many cases, the reason is “in-kind support and maintenance” (ISM). A person who receives shelter and food from a friend or family member they live with is receiving in-kind support and maintenance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) counts that support as income and lowers their benefit.
Washington, DC—(July 19, 2017) 85-year-old Ortencia boils soup bones with vegetables she gets from the food bank to stretch her weekly food allotment and stay healthy. 61-year old Carey endures numerous aches and pains to carry groceries home from the bus, the cheapest form of transportation. Both struggle to survive on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a need-based program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides a very basic income to older adults and people with disabilities. Major provisions of the program haven’t been updated since it was created in 1972, and as the program fails to keep up with the cost of living, the 8.3 million people who rely on it to pay rent, buy food, and meet other basic needs keep falling further below the poverty line.
Representative Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced the SSI Restoration Act of 2017 in Congress today, with the support of 36 representatives and more than 80 organizations. The SSI Restoration Act puts forth solutions intended to help people like Ortencia and Carey make ends meet. The act increases the amount of money individuals can receive to supplement their income from both employment and non-employment sources; it increases the amount of assets individuals and couples can save for emergencies to a limit that’s more in line with today’s dollars; it repeals a provision that discourages people from seeking help from family; and removes the marriage penalty, among other adjustments.
Our new issue brief Cuts to Multi-Recipient Households Push Older Adults & Their Families Deeper into Poverty outlines who’s most affected and discusses how these cuts would discourage families with older adults and people with disabilities from helping one another out by sharing their homes.
The cuts would push already poor families deeper into poverty, force people onto the streets or into institutions, and result in costly administrative burdens for the Social Security Administration (SSA).
California has the highest rate of senior poverty in the nation; increasingly more older Californians struggle to make ends meet and stay in their homes, and senior homelessness is on the rise. Over a million California seniors and people with disabilities rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to help them meet their basic needs. There are people who depend on SSI to survive in every community in the state. The majority of SSI recipients are women, and the program is critical for many people of color and people with limited English proficiency. It’s also an essential safety net for nearly 300,000 California retired older adults who receive some Social Security, but not enough, because they worked in low-wage or seasonal jobs, or stayed home from work to care for family members.
Please use this new Justice in Aging SSI fact sheet for California that shows who relies on SSI, why it’s important, and the dangers cuts to the program would pose for low-income individuals, families, and communities.
With leaders in Congress intent on cutting benefits like SSI, it’s critical that advocates proactively educate lawmakers, the media, and fellow advocates about the important role SSI plays in ensuring that some of the most vulnerable people in our state can meet their basic needs for shelter, food, and other necessities. Given the significant number of low-income older adults in California, Justice in Aging recently launched two new projects to improve access to and utilization of SSI benefits among older adults across the state. We are building a strong coalition of statewide advocates who are informed about and trained in the details of the SSI program, including how SSI reduces homelessness, and working toward systemic improvements of the program.
Below is a statement strongly opposing Trump’s 2018 budget from Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging:
“President Trump’s 2018 budget is an attack on the millions of older adults who already live on meager incomes and struggle to pay their rent, buy food, and meet their health needs. The budget imposes massive cuts to Medicaid, Social Security, and other critical programs that many older adults rely on for their health and economic security.”