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Disability Rights Oregon files class action lawsuit against Social Security

DRO and Oregon Law Center have filed a lawsuit to protect 700 people in the Portland Metro area from losing their April Social Security benefits.

Read the Complaint here in PDF format: Burlingame vs. Colvin - Complaint


Plaintiffs Brian Matthew Burlingame, Travis Gray, Roger Monhead, Gregory Whitten , and Arvid H. Kovacic Sr. and JOIN, a nonprofit organization, have filed a class action lawsuit today on behalf of 700 individuals with disabilities who depend upon Social Security Administration benefits for basic life necessities.  The suit is necessary to assure that these Oregonians are not put at risk of losing their homes or other shelter, food, medications and other supports as a result of the Social Security Administration’s disqualification of Safety Net of Oregon as a representative payee.  Plaintiffs seek emergency relief from the U.S. District Court to ensure continued payment of Social Security benefits.  They are represented by Disability Rights Oregon, Oregon Law Center, and the National Senior Citizens Law Center.  


While SSA has taken appropriate steps to make sure that an organization that acts as a financial agent for beneficiaries is doing a responsible job, it should not put individuals at risk of harm in the process.  This suit is asking that SSA follow its own regulations to make sure that benefits continue to flow to recipients in a safe and responsible manner.


In early March, SSA sent a notice to approximately 1,000 SSA recipients who have Safety Net as a representative payee, advising them that their benefits would be suspended beginning April 1, 2014, and that the amount they would receive would be $0.00.  While some recipients have been able to find a new payee, or to become their own payee, many clients never received the notice and have no idea that their benefits are about to be suspended.  Almost 700 individuals still lack new payees as of March 21, 2014.  Many are homeless, have severe and persistent mental illness, developmental disabilities, and/or alcohol or drug addictions.  Many of the clients are profoundly social isolated and alienated, and totally unable to navigate the system on their own. 


Marc Jolin, Executive Director of JOIN, says that if SSA suspends benefits on April 1, it will cause serious harm to the organization’s current and formerly homeless clients.  JOIN has already had to divert substantial staff resources to identifying, contacting and transitioning affected beneficiaries.  Mr. Jolin warned, “We cannot possibly assist all of the other vulnerable individuals who face the coming disruption of benefits.”


For further information contact:


Kathy Wilde, Legal Director – Disability Rights Oregon  503-243-2081 ext 215

Monica Goracke, Oregon Law Center – 503-473-8312

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