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Info glitch triggers big headache for man on SSDI

The process for obtaining Social Security disability insurance benefits is not an easy one. We make that point regularly. That's one of the reasons why it is considered wise for anyone thinking of making an SSDI claim to work with an experienced attorney through the initial claim and any subsequent appeals.

Considering the stiff requirements the government demands of applicants, it would be nice to think that its own internal systems for managing payments after they've been granted would be free of error. But as the story we are about to share shows, that's not always the case.

The unhappy beneficiary in this matter doesn't happen to life in California, but what has happened to him is not unique, according to experts.

The man's name is Fernando Ortiz. He's 57 and lives with his wife and their 3-year-old granddaughter in Fort Lauderdale. Unable to work, he receives $1,600 a month in disability. That's money that he says he and his family depends on.

But back in August that lifeline came under threat when the Social Security Administration informed Ortiz that he wouldn't be receiving that month's check "because you are imprisoned for the conviction of a crime." He purportedly was incarcerated in Massachusetts.

The issue got sorted out after an SSA claims official called prison officials and confirmed there was no one in the prison with Ortiz's name or birth date. Ortiz got his benefit check.

In December, it happened again. And this time, the government ordered Ortiz to repay more than $6,800 in back benefits. What was different, says Ortiz, is that he was rebuffed when he tried to get help from SSA employees in his local office.

His December and his January checks never arrived. He ended up draining savings to pay bills. Medicare cut off his benefits and said Ortiz owed the agency $300.

Ortiz says he finally got help after a Florida newspaper called the SSA offices in Washington about the story. But, despite assurances from the agency that it's working to resolve Ortiz's issues, Ortiz says he's worried there could be more trouble ahead.

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Social Security wrongly labels disabled man as inmate," Donna Gehrke-White, Jan. 18, 2014 

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