You currently do not have JavaScript enabled in your web browser.
The ABA website relies on JavaScript for display purposes.
To fully experience the ABA site, please enable javascript.
SSI kids get deserved "second chance" with new SSA review, families urged to take advantage of free legal help

SSI kids get deserved "second chance" with new SSA review, families urged to take advantage of free legal help

By ABA President Jerome Shestack

It's not often that you get a second chance in life, but almost 90,000 children with disabilities will get just that because the Social Security Administration has mailed out second redetermination notices to children whose benefits were terminated since last summer from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program due to welfare reform.

Families who receive these notices also will find a new vital feature included: statewide hotline numbers where they can get free legal representation, which the American Bar Association and children's advocates believe will greatly improve SSI families' chances of retaining funding.

As soon as SSI families get these notices, they should use the hotline numbers to link up with a lawyer who will represent them without charge during their new SSA review. Time is of the essence.

The ABA urged the SSA to issue new redetermination notices and to include the statewide hotline numbers for free legal help to ensure that these children get their right to due process and not just an administrative review. On Dec. 17, the SSA finally agreed to do just that. SSA Commissioner Kenneth Apfel is to be commended for taking this step toward treating these most vulnerable of children fairly.

As before, families will have 10 days to file an appeal and retain funding during the appeal process, and 60 days to appeal.

The SSA's own internal report on the termination program found that many families did not appeal within the necessary 10-day period to continue funding because they feared the SSA warning that they might have to repay funds paid them during the appeal process.

Quite simply these impoverished families would not be able to comply with a such a demand -- their dire financial straits were why they qualified for SSI originally. The SSA notifications fail to mention repayment waivers.

The SSA's internal report also confirmed reports that clients were given misinformation or misunderstood the SSA information they did receive.

The SSA agreed that errors had been made, and many children had been unjustly cut from the program. To his credit, SSA Commissioner Apfel agreed to take steps to correct these measures including conducting further field training for SSA staff on SSI regulations, and giving those doing the reviews additional information to aid them in making their decisions fairly.

However, the ABA still believes these families should have legal representation to make certain they have a fair hearing. The administrative review procedures are complicated and difficult to understand. The process has many stages.

The ABA encourages these SSI families to take the hand extended to them by the nation's lawyers. Our offer of free legal services is sincere. Our concern for your children is sincere.

This is one battle in life that you don't have to face alone, and don't you have enough already? Let our volunteer lawyers help you help you and your children.

We are a telephone call away.