Denied Social Security May Be Paid

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Sat, 1 Aug 1998 08:13:46 -0400


>Denied Social Security May Be Paid
>
>.c The Associated Press
>
> By MATTHEW BROWN
>
>SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A federal judge has approved a settlement that
could
>return millions of dollars in Social Security benefits to thousands of
>disabled and homeless people whose claims were wrongfully denied.
>
>U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell signed the settlement order Wednesday,
>saying the process of locating those who could receive retroactive
benefits
>should start right away.
>
>``It's very clear the longer this matter goes on, the more these people
>suffer,'' Campbell said.
>
>The settlement will also fund a search for some 5,000 people, some of
them
>homeless, who were denied benefits between January 1991 and February
1994. The
>settlement allows the plaintiffs to have their claims reviewed.
>
>A government attorney said paying them could take years.
>
>The Social Security Administration has estimated the retroactive payouts
may
>total $22 million, an estimate plaintiff's attorney Brent Manning said
was
>low.
>
>``We have been inundated by requests and questions on the settlement,''
>Manning told the judge.
>
>He said some plaintiffs could be owed as much as $170,000.
>
>All were denied Social Security benefits for mental disabilities which
kept
>them from easily finding jobs.
>
>The lead plaintiff, David Goodnight, was in a powered wheelchair and
needed
>oxygen when he was denied benefits and told to find a job as a security
guard.
>
>``That's what got this started,'' said Barbara Toomer, a disabled rights
>activist. ``We were just appalled.''
>
>Goodnight died four months ago. Outside the courthouse, Kari Faerber
wept as
>she contemplated receiving benefits. Faerber, 33, of Salt Lake City, has
>multiple sclerosis and is expected to qualify for a re-examination of
her
>rejected application.
>
>``I hear about all of these medications they've discovered and I don't
have
>the money to pay for them,'' she told The Salt Lake Tribune. ``I'll be
more
>able to take care of myself.''
>
>The lawsuit was filed in 1992 against the Utah Disability Determination
>Services, the Social Security Administration and various officials with
both
>agencies, alleging that overworked and unqualified clerks instead of
>physicians were denying claims.
>
>A physician's review is required under federal law. But plaintiffs'
attorneys
>said at least two doctors admitted they never reviewed some claimants'
files
>before deciding whether to approve benefits.
>
>``Frankly it appears what happened was they were trying to deal with a
huge
>workload in an entirely inappropriate way,'' Manning said.
>
>Justice Department John Niemeyer said the problem was not as widespread
as the
>plaintiffs contended and the government was poised to go to trial to
prove its
>point.
>
>Settlement talks narrowed the number of people considered eligible for
claims
>to 5,000 from 8,000. Niemeyer said the size of the case was rare.
>
>``These are people who are at the end of their rope and at the end of
their
>lives in some circumstances,'' Manning said, explaining why he agreed to
>settle rather than go to trial.
>
>Government agencies and local advocacy groups will help in trying to
locate
>those whose claims were denied during the three-year period and want to
be
>reconsidered.
>
>Niemeyer said the process of locating those people and reviewing their
claims
>should take about seven years.
>
>AP-NY-07-30-98 0551EDT
>
> Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.  The information  contained in the
AP
>news report may not be published,  broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
>distributed without  prior written authority of The Associated Press. 

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