Jun 25, 2017

But It Makes For Good Sound Bites

     From the Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the umbrella group for American organizations helping the disabled:
Legislative proposals such as H.R. 2792 would bar payment of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to people with an outstanding arrest warrant for an alleged felony or for an alleged violation of probation or parole. This would revive an old, failed policy that had catastrophic effects for many people with disabilities and seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. 
Does NOT Help Law Enforcement Secure Arrests 
The Social Security Act already prohibits payments to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) currently notifies law enforcement of the whereabouts of every person with a warrant for an alleged felony or an alleged violation of probation or parole who turns up in SSA’s databases. This bill would not change these policies and procedures. 
Cuts Off Social Security, SSI for Hundreds of Thousands of People Whom Law Enforcement is Not Pursuing 
Based on prior experience with SSA’s failed former policy, the people who would be affected are those whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. 
  Most of the warrants in question are decades old and involve minor infractions, including warrants routinely issued when a person was unable to pay a fine or court fee, or a probation supervision fee. 
  Many people are not even aware that a warrant was issued for them, as warrants are often not served on the individual. 
  Some people will be swept up as a result of mistaken identity, or paperwork errors, which can take months or even years to resolve. 
Impact of Cuts would be Severe 
Resolving these warrants can be extremely hard and costly: people often must go before a judge in the issuing jurisdiction, and typically need counsel to assist them in navigating the process. Often, people have moved in the intervening years and live far from the issuing jurisdiction. Cutting off benefits will not help resolve the warrant. 
  Social Security and SSI provide the only source of personal income for over one in three beneficiaries. Losing this income will cause many people to become homeless and unable to meet their basic needs much less, resolve a warrant. 
  A very high percentage of people who would lose benefits have mental illness or intellectual disability. Many are unaware of the violation, may not have understood the terms of parole or probation, or may have other misunderstandings about their case. 


Anonymous said...

The proposed plan would leave many SSI or SSD beneficiaries in an impossible situation. Resolving a mistaken, inactive, or unknown warrant usually costs a lot in the context of an SSI or SSDI recipient's income. At the exact time they desperately need funds to fix the problem, the plan takes their SSI or SSD income away. Especially for people without other income, most won't be able to afford to fix the warrant. At the same time they have lost the income needed to pay for basic life necessities like food and shelter. Especially in cases involving mistaken identity, or people who never even knew they had a warrant, the results of such a rule could be unjust and even inhumane.

Anonymous said...

I remember when we had this policy before; it took hours of negotiation with different people who were suppose to get back to you, etc. to get this resolved. Often I could use the argument that this person was very sick and will cost you lots of money when you lock him up and provide his medical care. The people with whom I dealt only received SSI, and it was a major difficulty for them. As was pointed out, legal help was needed to negotiate this, and it's not available now.

Anonymous said...

I once had a client who was denied her SSI payments because 20 years earlier she missed her last visit with her parole officer so a warrant was issued. The authorities never bothered to follow up on the warrant, and since my client never had any legal trouble after that single conviction, the warrant just sat there on her record. However, SSA listed her as a "fleeing felon" and would not pay her benefits.

We had to contact the prosecutors office to try to get her one more visit with a parole officer so she could complete her parole. The prosecutor was baffled that we would need to do this and didn't want to waste his time and resources. However, I convinced him to help us after I explained the absurdity of the situation. The had to create a new file (the old one being destroyed) and assign a parole officer. My client then had to have a meeting with the officer for 20 minuets. The warrant was then cancelled.

Anonymous said...

I worked a large number of these cases, as a legal aid attorney back in the day. Got help from the National Senior Citizen's Law Center, the group that brought the class action that led to the repeal of the rule. It was truly Kafka-esque, trying to clear these things up. I had one client that presented herself to the local police department, asking to be arrested, so she could be extradited back to California to clear the warrant, but the locals didn't want any part of her. The worst part of it was that SSA took the position that there was no appeal right - none. People were told to clear these warrants and that's that. Often the SSA wouldn't or couldn't even give the beneficiaries info about the warrants.

Here's how bad it all got - on one case, I had to contact the former public defender, in Los Angeles. I learned that the LA Public Defenders' office had an entire unit established to do nothing but handle these termination of benefits for former clients.

and yes, no one in the criminal justice system could believe this really happened.

Tim said...

This seems likely to be an unnecessary expense to many, including SSA, without any benefit, other to make a few "feel" like they are "doing something" to "limit SSDI/SSI spending." Done without regard to the costs of their "feelings." Truly pointless!

Anonymous said...

It probably had good intentions. Didn't look good paying that serial killer in CA up until he was executed. So crack down on all with warrants! Probably less than 1 % of those warrants were really anything at all.