In the recent Second Circuit case of Clark v. Astrue, the Administration was found to have improperly applied its rules to claimants that were considered “fleeing felons.”
42 U.S.C. § 1382(e)(4)(A) provides that benefits will not be payable to recipients for months where the recipient is violating a condition of probation or parole imposed under Federal or State law. In 1996, the Administration adopted a policy of suspending benefits where a warrant was issued for a violation of parole or probation, taking the position that the issuance of a warrant was sufficient to prove a beneficiary had in fact violated the terms of the parole or probation.
The Second Circuit found that the probable cause or reasonable suspicion required to issue a warrant for someone on probation or parole was not sufficient to determine that an individual was in fact violating a term of the probation or parole. Thus, the policy of ceasing benefits to recipients because they had outstanding warrants for probation/parole violations was contrary to the plain language of the statute.
The Administration is currently in the process of sending notices to recipients that they may be eligible for benefit reinstatement or repayment of back benefits. I know that I have seen this for a couple of our former clients.
The National Senior Citizens Law Center has put together a very useful FAQ sheet on this issue, so I reiterate all of its advice. I would encourage anyone who thinks they were improperly denied because of an outstanding warrant to contact their local Social Security office to see if they may be eligible for repayment of benefits.