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California judge rules for plaintiffs in disability review case

If you are already receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you may be subjected to periodic reviews of your ability to work. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that you are exceeding its income level limits after conducting a work review, the agency may take action to terminate, suspend or reduce your monthly disability benefits.

Last week, Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California refused to dismiss two cases accusing the SSA of violating federal laws by failing to make work reviews accessible to the mentally and developmentally disabled.

Plaintiffs in these two cases are claiming that the federal agency's representatives have not been trained to conduct work reviews or to even communicate clearly with people who have mental or developmental disabilities. In addition, the plaintiffs allege, the agency has also failed to revise its forms to make them more understandable to beneficiaries with such disabilities.

The judge rejected the SSA's argument that the plaintiffs' claims of emotional distress were insufficient to confer legal standing, and its argument that there could be no injury to plaintiffs who had not been denied benefits. The judge also dismissed the agency's contention that the court lacked jurisdiction due to the nature of the plaintiffs' claims.

In issuing his decision, Judge Chen noted that emotional distress has been recognized as an injury sufficient to confer standing by other courts, and also that the more serious injury in these two cases was the discrimination suffered by the plaintiffs in being denied meaningful participation in the review process.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Social Security Must Face Discrimination Claims," Chris Marshall, Feb. 17, 2012

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