It appears the "Fugitive Felon" program had some issues and precluded benefits to rightful recipients. A federal judge approved a civil-court settlement requiring the Social Security Administration to repay $500 million to 80,000 recipients whose benefits it suspended after deeming them fugitives.
The supposed fugitives include a disabled widow with a previously suspended driver’s license, a quadriplegic man in a nursing home and a Nevada grandmother mistaken for a rapist.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, they were among at least 200,000 elderly and disabled people who lost their benefits in recent years under what the agency called the "Fugitive Felon" program. Launched in 1996 and extended to Social Security disability and old-age benefits in 2005, the program aimed to save taxpayers money by barring the payment of Social Security benefits to people "fleeing to avoid prosecution."
But some federal courts in recent years have concluded that most people the agency identified as fleeing felons were neither fleeing nor felons. The problem: Social Security employees relied on an operations manual stating that anyone with a warrant outstanding is a fugitive felon, whether the person is actually fleeing or attempting to avoid being captured.
The Social Security Administration, which neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing as part of the settlement, declined to comment.
The National Senior Citizens Law Center, an advocacy group for the elderly and disabled, sued the Social Security Administration in an Oakland, Calif., federal court last year on behalf of people denied benefits, and asserted that most warrants — some decades old — were for minor offenses and most people were unaware they existed.
Let’s hope all of the valid recipients are compensated.