Roose & Ressler was proud to be co-counsel in a national class action case that proved that about 70,000 people were owed over $100 million dollars from the Social Security Administration.
Before we dive into what problems the case corrected, let’s start with how it came to be. Stephanie Steigerwald (who becomes the named plaintiff) contacted Attorney Roose (now deceased) complaining that she did not think that she had been paid correctly by the Social Security Administration. It caused Attorney Roose to investigate the issue further. After many hours of research, it was concluded that Social Security had not performed the required calculation to account for attorney fees, i.e., did not deduct her cost in obtaining the award.
Furthermore, his investigation also concluded that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) had identified that this was an issue that Social Security needed to address years ago. This information was used as the foundation of the argument that there in fact would be a “class” of people with the same issue. Class action lawsuits were outside of Roose & Ressler’s scope, so Attorney Roose contacted Mr. Kasdan, a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP who had prior experience with class action suits and Social Security. He presented the idea for a class action on this issue to him. In turn, the Steigerwald complaint was filed in July 2017 with Mr. Kasdan as co-counsel. Unfortunately, Mr. Roose died in April 2018. He did not see the result of what he started, but he was an integral part of it.
After the Steigerwald filing, Social Security tried to get the case dismissed. SSA recalculated Ms. Steigerwald’s case and paid her the long overdue underpayment. It initially denied that there was a basis for a class action. It continued to deny liability in opposition to Steigerwald’s motion for summary judgment. Then, while reviewing claimants’ cases to correct the harm it had caused claimants, it issued overpayment notices to over 8,400 people, some for the agency’s own errors from more than 15 years ago. The agency eventually reversed course and withdrew the overpayments, but only after much prodding by Mr. Kasdan.
In summary, Social Security frequently failed to deduct the costs of attorney fees that claimants paid to help them secure benefits. Claimants are often entitled to more months of SSI payments when the costs of attorney fees are deducted from claimants’ income. This caused SSA to recalculate back benefit payments. As a result, 130,000 cases were reviewed from 2002 to 2017. 70,780 claimants were found to be due additional underpayments exceeding 100 million dollars. Roose & Ressler is proud to have been a part of helping so many people receive the benefits they were entitled to.
Mr. Kasdan and Mr. Ressler gave a presentation on this class action case at the National Organization of Claimants’ Representative Social Security (NOSSCR) annual conference on May 12th.