74 Year Old New York Woman One of Thousands to Have SSI Benefits Slashed After Inaccurate Property Ownership Accusations

Sharee B.

Each year tens of thousands of individuals become qualified to receive SSI benefits from Social Security Administration. One stipulation to continue receiving them is to report all earnings and property value held in assets, whether monetary or physical.

One woman residing in Harlem, who was 74 years old at the time, and living in senior housing had her benefits slashed to the point that it was difficult to continue paying her living expenses. The Social Security Administration had performed an audit via a database, which inaccurately reported that the woman had owned two separate properties whose value surpassed the limits to qualify for benefits.

In response, the woman received a letter advising that she would have to immediately repay more than $10,000 in benefits. Not only did she not have the funds to repay the benefits, but also lacked the money to afford a lawyer to defend her when the reduction in benefits severely affected her ability to remain in her rental unit.

The woman, who wished to remain unnamed, is one of the thousands of elderly individuals that have been excluded from or kicked off of receiving benefits due to inaccurate property ownership accusations.

According to reports from the Justice in Aging as well as the National Consumer Law Center, the agency scours databases that mistakenly attach property ownership records to recipients without additional verifications. This causes the Social Security Administration to revoke or severely slash the benefits of the recipients until they can prove otherwise.

The administration's policy requires that overpayments be repaid immediately, once a letter is received and only provides for a 15-day appeal process during which benefits can continue to be received. Once the deadline has been reached, there are three additional steps required to successfully complete an appeal, which could take months. Currently, more than 2.3 million elderly individuals rely on monthly payments in order to provide them with food and shelter.

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