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Man wrongfully denied SSD benefits after being labeled an inmate

Published on February 7th, 2014

The simple reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who receive Social Security disability benefits rely on their monthly checks to help cover their most basic living expenses. As such, any delay or denial of benefits can prove to be utterly devastating.

What can make this situation all the more devastating, however, is when the Social Security Administration’s delay or denial of SSD benefits is predicated upon a administrative mistake or clerical error.

To illustrate, consider a case out of Florida concerning a 57-year-old man suffering from diabetes and other health problems who relies on his monthly checks to survive. Here, SSA officials cut off his disability benefits twice in a span of five months due to their mistaken belief that he was a prison inmate.

According to the man — we’ll call him Fernando — he randomly received a letter from the SSA back in August informing him that he was ineligible for disability benefits as he was currently incarcerated in a minimum-security prison in Massachusetts.

Understandably concerned, Fernando contacted a local SSA claim representative who resolved the matter after speaking with a prison official who verified that they had no such person in their facility.

The exact same issue appeared again in December as Fernando once again received another letter from the SSA accusing him of being a prison inmate and denying him disability benefits. However, the letter went on to demand the return of over $6,000 that it classified as an “overpayment” of benefits.

Unfortunately, when Fernando attempted to clear up the matter at the local SSA branch, he was provided with no meaningful assistance and ended up missing his December disability check. As the issue continued into January, he was forced to dip into his already limited savings and cancel a medical appointment after his Medicare was cut off because of alleged nonpayment of $300.

Relief for Fernando finally came only a few weeks ago after he contacted a local newspaper to explain his problem. Here, the newspaper had placed several calls to SSA officials in Washington, D.C. and, in a perhaps unsurprising turn of events, he received his missing disability checks along with apologies from agency officials shortly thereafter.

It is worth noting that while this may seem like a truly random incident, an official at the Massachusetts minimum-security prison indicated that it is actually fairly common, as many people enter the prison system with multiple names and multiple Social Security numbers. This, in turn, can create the type of confusion like that encountered by Fernando.

It’s truly fortunate that Fernando was able to secure his disability benefits and get this matter of mistaken identity resolved. However, one can only help but wonder what would have happened had the local newspaper not intervened. Here’s hoping that the SSA uses this as a learning experience and proves more willing to help disability recipients going forward.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and your options for securing SSD benefits, consider contacting an experienced and dedicated attorney who can help guide you through the complex process.

Source: The Sun Sentinel, “Social Security wrongly labels disabled man as inmate,” Donna Gehrke-White, Jan. 18, 2014

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