One of the basic tenets of the U.S. legal system is that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A lot of effort goes into trying to uphold that ideal in law enforcement and both civil and criminal court settings. It might not always be achieved, but the effort is made.
The Social Security Administration system processes are a bit different. In its bid to prevent potential fraud, the government has crafted the rules and regulations so as to put the onus on individuals in California and the rest of the country to prove through detailed applications and appeals that that they are eligible for disability insurance benefits. It's because of that complexity that an attorney's help can be invaluable.
It makes sense for the government to be cautious where taxpayer money is involved. But there can be times when the demands of the system become punitive. This is especially true if there isn't any particular evidence that individual beneficiaries have done anything wrong.
A case out of Kentucky serves as a good example. Some 900 SSDI beneficiaries in that state recently got word that their benefits were being suspended because of suspected fraud. It's alleged that some doctors and an attorney who had represented the beneficiaries perpetrated the fraud.
The thing is, there's been no trial and there's no indication of evidence to show that the beneficiaries were even aware of the alleged scheme. Yet, they are the ones paying the price.
Thanks to the intervention of some members of Congress, the SSA agreed to delay the suspension. But beneficiaries with cases under review still had to prove that they are entitled to SSDI funds and they were given just 10 days to do it.
As one legal aid group notes, that's a high hurdle to clear. It has pledged to help as many of the beneficiaries as possible and reportedly recruited private attorneys to volunteer to help, too.
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader, "Suit filed against Eastern Kentucky disability lawyer as legal aid group offers help to hundreds facing suspension of benefits," Will Right and Bill Estep, May 29, 2015