** This article has been revised from its original version which was published on October…
Since 2018, thousands of recipients of Supplementary Security Income (SSI) have been receiving correspondence from the Social Security Administration (SSA) falsely claiming that the recipient owns properties that make them ineligible for SSI. As a result, the SSA has been cancelling these recipients’ benefits and/or demanding that these recipients repay the agency for benefits received.
The problem started when the SSA, in an effort to identify recipients of government assistance owning unreported real properties that would disqualify them from receiving government benefits, began using a LexisNexis database called “Accurint for Government”. The SSA cross-checks lists of property owners indicated on Accurint with their own database of government benefits recipients. If the SSA finds a match between the two (2) databases, they mail a letter to the recipient informing them that their benefits have been cancelled and, possibly, demanding repayment for benefits received. In most cases, the SSA’s correspondence will not even indicate the properties for which the recipient is alleged to own, making it difficult for the recipient to rebute the SSA’s allegations.
However, the SSA’s processing of their searches has had significant errors that have resulted in innocent government benefits recipients having their benefits cancelled. Specifically, Accurint lists an individual owning property without verifying if the individual has the same middle initials or social security numbers as the property owner indicated in the Accurint database. As such, a recipient with a similar name to a property owner was being accused of owning a real property that they in fact had no ownership of.
Accurint readily admits that its database does not meet the requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In fact, LexisNexis indicates at the bottom of its Accurint website a disclaimer that states: “Accurint for Government is not a consumer report as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and may not be used for any purpose permitted by the FCRA.” By doing so, LexisNexis is avoiding requirements to maintain reasonable standards for maximum possible accuracy of the information contained in the Accurint database. The SSA is using the disclaimer to kick recipients off of SSI and to strip them of their rights without providing them with notice. Per the FCRA, the recipients would have a right to be notified before action is taken again them and would be given the opportunity to have inaccurate information in which the action is based on investigated and corrected.
The SSA asserts that Accurint is only used as a starting point for their investigation into alleged unreported property-owning recipients and that they make further investigations into whether the recipients did own the property before acting. However, many in the industry dispute said assertion and point to cases where further investigations would have easily proved the innocence of recipients.
If you are a recipient who receives a letter from the SSA indicating that your benefits had been cancelled, or even demanding repayment, and incorrectly alleging that you own property, you should contact an attorney immediately to assist you in responding to the SSA.