Social Security Sues Down Syndrome Child for $85K, Cuts off Healthcare & Benefits

Here’s another stomach-turning story of Social Security incompetence and bureaucratic cruelty. It involves Jessica, a middle-age supermarket clerk. I describe Jessica as a child for a reason. Down Syndrome renders its victims beautiful children throughout their lives. Jessica’s Social Security horror story is told below by her parents — Hope Corman and Hugh Rockoff.

Social Security’s new Commissioner is a godsend. He’s limited the amount the Agency can claw back recipients’ checks to 10 percent. But if your check has been stopped, 90 percent of zero is zero. And limiting clawbacks doesn’t addresses cases that shouldn’t entail clawbacks in the first case.

That’s Jessica’s case. Social Security is suing her — clawing her back — for $85,279.10. In so doing, Social Security is violating the law in four ways. First, taking account of her work expenses, Jessica did not earn beyond the limit allowed for the disabled. Hence, as her parents explain and proved with 500 documents transmitted to Social Security — all apparently ignored, Social Security had no basis for ending her benefit and, in so doing, her Medicare coverage.

Second, having an internal kangaroo court, presumably comprising one of the Agency’s 10 thousand claim reps, decide in a matter of minutes to cut off Jessica — with no explanation and no proof, let alone a judicial proceeding — violates due process. Third, effectively suing a Down Syndrome victim goes against the underlying legislation governing clawbacks — to do nothing that Goes Against Equity and Good Conscience. Fourth, financially and medically abusing a child with Down Syndrome, who is barely able to sustain, herself Defeats the Purpose of the Act, which is the underlying legislation’s mandate to provide a social safety net.

Commissioner O’Malley, Please take the steps detailed in this letter that Terry Savage and I wrote you. Doing so will end the malevolent malfeasance the Agency is perpetrating against innocent Americans.

Our Social Security Nightmare

Our daughter, Jessica, is a great success story in terms of employment.  She has held a steady part-time job as a supermarket clerk for 20 years.  What is unusual about her situation is that she has Down Syndrome.  She maintains her employment, in part, because a private job coach is employed to ensure that she stays on track, and to facilitate communication with her supervisors.  She also gets special transportation services.  Jessica’s employment brings her fulfillment, community, income, and self-worth.  She pays her taxes and provides an important service to her employer and its customers.

Here’s our nightmare:  in November of 2023, she was dropped from Social Security because she was deemed “no longer disabled.”  This means that she is no longer eligible to receive her monthly Social Security check to augment her earnings and that she no longer qualifies for Medicare.  In addition to the precarious financial situation, she longer has access to her regular sources of medical care because of the loss of her primary health insurance.   The nightmare continues – they claim that Jessica owes Social Security a whopping $85,279.10.

The term “disability” in Social Security speak refers to whether Jessica’s earnings rise above their earnings threshold (Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA).  Jessica’s gross earnings did fall above the threshold.  However, her earnings net of her “Impairment-Related Work Expenses” never rose above the threshold.  According to official Social Security Red Book, she is allowed to deduct these expenses from her gross earnings, although we were never informed of how and where to report these work-related expenses.

 We could not believe this turn of events.  In October of 2022, we received “Disability Update Report” form from the Wilkes-Barre Social Security office.  On this form, we reported her usual Impairment-Related Work Expenses, as well as re-stating that she (still) has Down Syndrome.  In August of 2023, we received a letter from the Mid-Atlantic Program Service Center in Philadelphia stating: “We sent you a letter telling you that we were going to review your disability case. However, we do not need to review your case at this time.”  On October 12 of 2023, we received a letter from the Social Security Office of Baltimore stating that Jessica had been underpaid, her benefits would increase, and she would receive an additional back payment.  We thought all was good. 

Imagine our shock when we went to refill a prescription for Jessica and were told that she was no long enrolled in Medicare.  It took numerous phone calls to ascertain that she had been dropped by Social Security and Medicare.  A month later, we received a letter by mail stating that this had happened.  The Baltimore Social Security office claimed that they had sent us a letter in June of 2022 stating that Jessica’s “disability had ended” and that she was not entitled to benefits beginning in April of 2017.  We never received this letter, which certainly contradicted the subsequent letters from Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia).  We were also informed that because we did not respond in a timely manner to the letter (that we never received) that she was no longer eligible for an appeal.  Jessica continues to get monthly notices from Baltimore stating that she owes $85,279.10.

In late November, we hired a disability lawyer to try to help us.  On December 12, 2023, a package containing over 500 pages of documentation was sent to both the Baltimore and the Trenton, NJ Social Security offices.  Since then, the only correspondence we have received from Social Security is the monthly request for the $85+k.  That is, after over three months since the SSA received our documents, we are no closer to a resolution, Jessica is still receiving no benefits, continues to get letters saying that she owes an enormous sum of money, and she is still without her usual sources of medical care. 

This is outrageous.  Jessica is being punished and harassed.  She should be lauded for what she has accomplished in the past 20 years.  We know we are not alone.  Other parents of adult disabled children experience similar Social Security nightmares. Why is the system so careless and heartless? When will this nightmare end?

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