Right to Recover SSI Without Reductions in Public Assistance Benefits

Doe v. Doar, Index No. 2235/05 (Sup. Ct. Monroe Co.)

Nature of Claims: This action challenged a state regulation, 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 352.2(b), issued on July 7, 2004, that reduced the public assistance grant for households with a member who received SSI. The regulation provided that the public assistance grant must be calculated as if the SSI recipient were included in the household, and then reduced pro rata to reflect the number of persons receiving public assistance. For example, in a household with a child on public assistance and a parent on SSI, the public assistance grant would be reduced by 50 percent. Plaintiffs alleged that the regulation violated the state statutory "invisibility rule" for SSI, SSL § 131-c(1), and unlawfully reduced the public assistance standard of need in SSL § 131-a and the standard of need for disabled, elderly, and blind individuals in SSL § 209.

Current Status: On July 13, 2005, Justice David Egan granted class certification and held in favor of plaintiffs on all grounds, finding that the regulation violates SSL §§ 131-c(1), 131-a, and § 209. On February 3, 2006, the Fourth Department affirmed for the reasons stated by Justice Egan. On September 13, 2007, a final judgment was entered permanently enjoining any actions to enforce § 352.2(b) and approving a remedial plan to restore benefits retroactively for class members who currently receive (or who will in the future receive) public assistance. On September 14, 2007, the State issued instructions directing all local districts to cease applying the regulation to new public assistance applicants and to open cases in which a household member becomes an SSI recipient after September 14. On October 16, 2007, the State issued an Administrative Directive describing the procedure for reimbursing class members for assistance that had been unlawfully withheld. We are monitoring the implementation of retroactive relief for class members in New York City.

No. Persons Affected: OTDA estimated that the regulation reduced public assistance grants statewide for over 26,000 households.

Reported Decisions: Doe v. Doar, 807 N.Y.S.2d 909 (4th Dep't 2006), app. dismissed, 6 N.Y.3d 891, 817 N.Y.S.2d 625 (2006).