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Federal judge orders disability benefits to keep flowing

A federal judge has thrown some Social Security disability beneficiaries a lifeline, preventing the possible cutoff of the funds crucial for their very survival, at least temporarily.

Unfortunately, the reaction from many to this act of judicial compassion reflects the widely held misconception that Social Security disability benefits are nothing more than handouts for those who are too lazy to work or take care of themselves.

Those who receive Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income have been deemed eligible by virtue of having met stringent government standards for either physical or mental disability. There may be no outward sign of their disabilities, but they are present. Whether they live in California or any other state, their conditions warrant respect.

The judge's ruling involves a situation that has developed in Portland, Oregon. We suspect that it is not unique, however, so we are posting about it.

At the heart of the case is a representative payee organization that has come under investigation for alleged mishandling of SSDI and SSI recipients' money. We have written about the representative payee program before.

According to the news stories about the case, the representative agency had been serving about 1,000 individuals by managing their benefits. Some weeks back, the Social Security Administration sent notices by mail and phone to let recipients know that they needed to find a new representative payee or see their benefits cut off in a matter of weeks.

At the time this is being written, only about half have completed that task. The problem, according to advocates for the disabled, is that many may be homeless. They have no mailing address. They likely don't have phones either. They may not know what's happening.

In a bid to prevent those individuals from losing their benefits the group Disability Rights Oregon sued for a restraining order. That's what the judge issued yesterday. It only lasts 10 days, but it's a window of opportunity. After that, the matter reportedly is due to be revisited to see if further action is required.

Source: KATU-TV, "Federal Judge throws lifeline to those receiving disability checks," Colin Miner, March 27, 2014

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