Justice Retrieved: Financial ruin leads to chaos for a generous woman

Our client came to us in February 2017. She was homeless and her Social Security disability benefits had been suspended. Her troubles began when she received a settlement payment following a personal injury.

Several years earlier, she was injured when she fell into a hole. In October 2015, she received $12,000 as compensation for her injuries. She was so grateful to have survived the incident that she spent almost all of the money on her family for large Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. She also gave a generous gift to the Good Samaritan who rescued her from the hole.

She did not know that she was required to report this settlement to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once they learned of it, the SSA suspended her benefits, imposed a 15-month penalty, and an $8,000 overpayment. With her benefits suspended and no other income or resources, she was unable to pay the rent and ultimately became homeless.
We reviewed her SSA file and determined her ineligibility period should have only been for the two months in which she spent all the money on holiday gifts to her family and friend. By the end of December, she had spent all of the money and was no longer ineligible for benefits.

We successfully argued that her benefits be immediately reinstated because the ineligibility period ended in December 2015. We also convinced the SSA that her overpayment should be reduced because with no income and no place to live, it would be hard for her to repay the debt.

With the trauma behind her and her benefits reinstated, she has begun to look for a new place to live.