If your Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Special Veterans Benefits (SVB) were suspended due to a felony arrest warrant, the Martinez settlement might offer you relief and reinstatement. On September 24, 2009, the United States District Court in the Northern District of California approved a nationwide class action settlement agreement in the case of Martinez v. Astrue. The Martinez settlement changes the types of felony arrest warrants that we will use to prohibit payment of Social Security, SSI, and Special Veterans benefits. This settlement does not apply to persons whose benefits we denied or stopped because of an arrest warrant due to a parole or probation violation. The full notice of the final settlement agreement is available at Martinez Settlement. The key points of the settlement are summarized below.
Effective April 1, 2009, Social Security began suspending or denying benefits based on outstanding felony arrest warrants only for the crimes of flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, escape from custody, and flight-escape. We also began applying the new policy when we consider a person’s suitability to serve as a representative payee.
For Class Members whose benefits were suspended or denied or had an administrative appeal determination on or after January 1, 2007, or who had administrative appeals challenging the suspension of their benefits pending on August 11, 2008, we will reinstate benefits and pay any benefits withheld back to the first month of suspension. We also will repay any sums we collected on an overpayment if these Class Members had been overpaid benefits based upon the previous policy. For Class Members who get SSI, we will first re-determine the Class Member’s non-medical eligibility criteria under our usual policies. After we reinstate benefits or payments to Settlement Class Members, we may conduct continuing disability reviews under our usual policies. We will notify Post-2006 Settlement Class Members at the time we take these actions with individual notices mailed to the address on our records.
For Class Members whose benefits were suspended or denied between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2006, and who did not have administrative appeals pending on August 11, 2008, we will stop collecting overpayments and will remove any remaining overpayment balances which were imposed based on the previous policy. We will notify Pre-2007 Settlement Class Members of the settlement by mailing them a notice to the address in our records. For Class Members who were not receiving benefits as of April 1, 2009 due to the application of the previous fugitive felon policy, the notice we send will advise them to contact us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make an appointment to file a new application for benefits. If they do so within six months of the date on the notice we will use an application date of April 1, 2009 as the protective filing date for the claim. Class Members whose benefits were suspended or denied prior to January 1, 2000, may reapply under the new policy, but will not be mailed a notice or offered a protective filing date of April 1, 2009.
Because of the size and complexity of the settlement, it will take significant time to provide the relief described above. Please do not contact us about reinstatement of benefits or overpayment relief provided by this settlement. We will notify affected Class Members as explained in the settlement.