Clark v. Astrue

Impact Litigation

Clark v. Astrue

On April 13, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Sidney H. Stein ordered the Social Security Administration (SSA) to restore Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to as many as 140,000 Americans. The benefits in question date back to October 2006 and may total $1 billion.

The order is the culmination of more than five years of litigation in Clark v. Astrue, a case brought by MHP against SSA challenging its use of a crude computer-matching system to suspend or deny the benefits of people who appear to have failed to comply with probation or parole. SSA completed no actual verification of these results before summarily suspending desperately needed benefits. People with psychiatric disabilities were especially vulnerable to this policy because they have a harder time dealing with SSA bureaucracy and are more likely to have had police interactions.

MHP filed the original complaint in 2006 in the Southern District of New York. In March 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that it is unlawful for SSA to suspend a recipient’s benefits based solely on an outstanding warrant for a probation or parole violation, and that an outstanding warrant is not sufficient evidence that an SSA beneficiary is in fact violating probation or parole. In March 2011, Judge Stein certified a nationwide class of people affected by SSA’s unlawful actions. The class includes individuals whose benefits were suspended or denied based solely on the existence of a warrant for an alleged violation of probation or parole but is limited to individuals 1) who were deprived of these benefits on or after October 24, 2006; 2) who had an initial overpayment determination made on or after October 24, 2006; or 3) who had an administrative appeal pending on or after October 24, 2006.

The April 13th Order requires SSA to discontinue its practice of suspending or denying benefits in this manner and to reinstate all previously suspended benefits retroactive to the date the benefits were suspended. SSA plans to complete the restoration of benefits and to reopen all claims that were denied by April 2014.

Pro bono co-counsel: Proskauer Rose LLP

Co-counsel: National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC)