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.