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Non-English speaking applicants file class action against SSA

A surprising class-action lawsuit out of California this month may have peaked the interest of some people here in Texas as well, especially those who may be immigrants filing for Social Security disability benefits and may need an interpreter to do so.

According to the complaint made by hundreds of disabled Vietnamese refugees, the Social Security Administration is guilty of suspending its only fluent Vietnamese-speaking attorney that would have been able to help them navigate the process of applying for disability benefits. They are currently holding Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin accountable for the dismissal and are requesting the reinstatement of the attorney immediately.

All those involved in the class action are considered "poor, disabled and non-English speaking Vietnamese former prisoner[s] of war and refugees" who needed help applying for benefits and negotiating the judicial proceedings associated with the appeals process. Even fluent English speakers, including many of our readers, have had difficulties with the complex language used by the SSA. Often times, a single misunderstanding can result in a rejected application despite an obvious need for benefits, resulting in an appeal that could be just as complicated to make.

While everyone has the right to appeal a rejected claim, doing so without the help of an attorney could mean further mistakes and further rejections. And for non-English speaking applicants, this process can be that much more difficult. The ultimate goal of this particular class action is to have the SSA reinstate the suspended attorney so that she can continue instructing them on how to navigate the often tricky process of applying for benefits. The likely hope is that they will receive a favorable outcome and can move forward with their disability applications.

Source: Courthouse News, "Vietnamese Refugees Sue Social Security Boss," Elizabeth Warmerdam, Sept. 4, 2013

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