Many advocates may recall the days following the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) implementation of legislation prohibiting the payment of Social Security or SSI benefits to so-called “fleeing felons.” Beneficiaries with long forgotten warrants or probation or parole violations, often from other states, that had also often forgotten about the warrants, found themselves cut off benefits. Class action challenges to SSA’s policies halted most of the abuses, and resulted in POMS that greatly narrowed the cases in which benefits could be terminated. See http://www.justiceinaging.org/our-work/litigation/clark-v-astrue-litigation/; http://www.justiceinaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Martinez-Advocate-Guide.pdf.
It turns out, however, there are still some Martinez and Clark class members who have not been restored to benefits. Nicholas Parr, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, recently discovered one and was able to resolve his problems. His client had a current notice denying his SSI for failure to cooperate by providing requested information. He also had a March 2009 notice stating he was not eligible for the SSI he began receiving in 2008 because he was subject to an outstanding felony warrant and/or an outstanding parole violation warrant.
Nicholas began investigating, and learned there was an outstanding arrest warrant from North Carolina and an outstanding parole warrant from South Carolina, which included the offense codes supporting the warrants. The offenses were not the escape or flight to avoid prosecution codes to which fleeing felon terminations are now limited. See POMS GN 02613.860 and POMS GN 02615.100. Nick requested Reconsideration of the instant SSI denial, arguing his client was a member of both the Martinez and Clark classes, citing the POMS as well. Several months later, the client’s SSI benefits were restored retroactive to 2009. The client received $50,763 in retroactive SSI, with an additional $24,562 in Interim Assistance going to Franklin County Department of Social Services.
As Nicholas and Peter Racette, Deputy Director of LASNNY, point out, it was fortuitous the client had the 2009 discontinuance notice with him. More troubling is SSA’s failure to identify the client as a class member. It took LASNNY’s intervention to call SSA’s attention to the fact. How lucky for the client that LASNNY had both the institutional memory and good advocacy skills to identify him as a class member and resolve his claim.