Unresolved Court Problems Can Also Cause Problems With Social Security

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Some people who get Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits may have an outstanding federal or state criminal warrant against them. Their benefits may be suspended. A law says if someone has a specific type of outstanding or unsatisfied warrant against them for more than 30 straight days, Social Security cannot pay any benefits to the person. Three types of warrants will cause Social Security to suspend benefits:

  • Warrants for a felony.
  • Warrants for serious crimes punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year, if the case was in a court that does not classify a crime as a felony.
  • Warrants for violating federal or state parole or probation.

If this applies to you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a notice. The notice will say they plan to suspend your benefits, unless you can establish "good cause" why your benefits should not be suspended. There are a number of different ways to establish "good cause." It will tell you what else SSA needs to have in order to decide that there is "good cause" to keep paying you benefits. You should act fast when you get this notice. The reason is that for some types of "good cause," there is a time limit to give SSA the documents that will allow them to keep paying you benefits.

What Constitutes Good Cause
Even though you may think you took care of a problem with a warrant, Social Security may not be aware of the change in status. If they don't know that an issue was resolved, benefits will come to a halt and that can be a financial disaster. A few of the ways a person can establish "good cause" are by showing that:

  • A court found you not guilty of the criminal offense or the probation/parole violation;
  • A court dismissed the charges that the warrant is based on;
  • A court has "vacated" or cancelled the warrant;
  • Someone else used your identity and the warrant is not against you.

There are also other ways to show "good cause." Iowa Legal Aid may be able to provide you with details about the process if you believe you should be getting benefits.

Other Ways to Deal with the Problem
Even if you can't establish "good cause," there may be other ways to get SSA benefits to start again. First, you can try to "satisfy" the warrant. Warrants are usually satisfied if:

  • you are arrested;
  • you surrender to law enforcement; or
  • a judge dismisses the warrant.

If the warrant is not for a probation or parole violation, you can also appeal the SSA's decision if you were not "fleeing" to avoid the warrant. This might be the case if, for example, you did not know a warrant against you had been issued. Appeals can also be based on other factors and you should talk to a lawyer if you need help.

Even if you can satisfy the warrant, you might still have an overpayment. The overpayment would be for the time the warrant was outstanding and SSA paid benefits to you. You may want to ask SSA to waive the overpayment. Iowa Legal Aid may be able to provide details about the process for waiver of overpayment.

Last Review and Update: Oct 03, 2006

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