Martinez v. Astrue, Notice of Motion and Motion for Class Certification, Northern District of California, National Senior Citizens Law Center, et al. (2009)

Pleadings and Briefs

This motion is for class certification of all individuals threatened with or who have suffered the suspension or denial of benefits under the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (“OASDI”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), or Special Veterans Benefits (“SVB”) programs, or who have not been permitted to serve as a representative payee for those programs, on the basis that they were allegedly “fleeing to avoid prosecution, or custody or confinement after conviction” for a felony. Federal courts have construed these provisions to require a specific intent to avoid prosecution on the part of the beneficiary. However, the Social Security Administration  adopted a policy of suspending benefit payments to every beneficiary who it concludes has a warrant outstanding against him or her, without regard to whether the court issuing the warrant made any finding as to intent. In this class action, the plaintiffs are requesting that the Court require the Commissioner to stop applying this policy, vacate decisions based on that policy, and readjudicate those decisions by applying the legal standard imposed by the statute and regulations. The plaintiffs lay out their support for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

This case prompted a $500 million settlement and change in the SSA's policies. The settlement agreement is available in the Resource Bank here.