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'Payee' alleged mismanagement threatens SSDI benefits

As many residents of Newark know, it can be a time-consuming struggle to successfully apply and be approved for Social Security Disability benefits. For many, their initial claim is rejected, prompting them to file an appeal with the help of an SSDI attorney.

After approval, some beneficiaries have a representative payee designated. A representative payee is a person or organization that receives the Social Security payments on the beneficiary's behalf and then uses the money to pay for necessities including housing, food, utilities, medical expenses, clothing and the like.

Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of their role as payee and exploit the SSDI beneficiary. That might be the case in Oregon where a lawsuit was recently filed to keep benefits flowing to nearly 1,000 Portland residents.

The people use a nonprofit organization called Safety Net as their payee. The group is supposed to help the disabled by managing their bills and checks.

But federal investigators are looking into whether the organization has mismanaged the funds. The Social Security Administration was trying to stop the flow of money into Safety Net, but by doing so, the lawsuit charged, it would harm those disabled people dependent on those checks.

Fortunately, a few days after the suit was filed, a federal judge prevented Social Security from suspending benefits to the Safety First clients.

Those people affected were apparently contacted by Social Security to switch payees, but approximately half of them had not switched by a deadline the agency set.

Social agencies and others in Oregon are trying to get everyone switched to another organization so that beneficiaries continue to get their bills paid.

This episode highlights the importance to family, friends, caregivers and others to help vulnerable SSDI recipients safeguard their benefits.

Source: KGW.com, "Lawsuit: Disabled should keep SS benefits," March 24, 2014

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