May 07, 2020
Public Benefits

How an SSI eligibility system wrongfully terminated benefits

Emma Weil and Aaron Rieke

Article

For many years, the Social Security Administration has been incorrectly assessing asset limits for Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries. When the first day of the month fell on a weekend or holiday, the system would deposit benefits early, but would then count the early deposit as part of the beneficiary's assets and terminate their benefits for being above the threshold, or even take the money back. This happened to thousands of beneficiaries, most of whom had a difficult time even realizing the error or appealing it successfully. In 2018, NYLAG sued the SSA and settled two years later, forcing SSA to make changes to the system that would prevent terminations from automatically occurring.

Upturn supported New York Legal Assistance Group in its settlement of a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration regarding its wrongful terminations of Supplement Security Income beneficiaries. We helped by analyzing the SSI eligibility system design details obtained through the lawsuit, and found points where technical fixes could be applied to prevent wrongful terminations from occurring. With our help, NYLAG was able to demand that systemic fixes take place within one year as opposed to the original five years, preventing many more people from losing their benefits.

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