Justice Update, Labor Day Edition: A lot of work to support a working client

Our client was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, when he was 20 years old. He relies on social security disability benefits for support, but supplements his income by working. Despite all the challenges he has faced while living with HIV for more than 30 years, he is committed to working. For more than five years, he staffed the front door at a private Philadelphia club. He works the weekend overnight shift, when the activity is slow.

After years of employment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determined that he had an overpayment. SSA sets income limits on how much a recipient can earn without their affecting their social security benefits. Our client’s earnings were over the income limit for the months in which there are five weekends instead of four. As a result, he had both an overpayment and was no longer eligible for benefits.

We helped him apply for an expedited reinstatement of his social security disability benefits. Social security recipients whose benefits are terminated, but who are still disabled, may be eligible for a quick restart of monthly payments. Following our application for an expedited reinstatement, our client began receiving provisional benefits while his reinstatement request was under review.

Six months had passed and the client still had no word of the status of his reinstatement request. As provisional benefits are terminated after six months, even if the reinstatement request is still pending, we knew we had to take quick action.

We contacted SSA and found out that his request had been approved, but it had not been communicated to the payment center. To ensure that his benefits would continue, we then contacted the field office to request that critical payments be issued to our client. Once his critical payments began, his monthly Medicare premiums were deducted.

Eventually, his file was updated at the payment center and he was moved from critical payments to a regular payment status. These payments, however, were reduced by the Medicare premiums that were previously deducted.

We again contacted SSA to advise that they had double-billed him for his Medicare premiums. Once they refunded his double-billed Medicare premiums, we established a monthly $10 repayment plan for his original overpayment.

Our client has spent more than half of his life living with HIV. His initial disability application dates back to when records were kept on paper, not electronically. The fact that he had a paper file made our work that much more labor intensive.

We spent two years working on this case. And we were proud that our labor resulted in our client’s ability to supplement his income through his labor.

We wish all workers a Happy Labor Day.