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Man finds himself in the middle of bureaucratic mess

When his schizophrenia interfered with his ability to hold a steady job, a young man in the Midwest applied for Social Security disability benefits. Like many in Pittsburgh and throughout the nation, his application was denied. After he submitted his appeal for the benefits, he applied for unemployment to tide him over until his appeal was processed.

Dealing with one federal agency can be a headache, but dealing with two has proven to be even more confounding.

When a person is approved on appeal for disability, they begin to receive monthly payments as well as retroactive compensation for the time between the submission of the original application and the approval of the appeal.

The man had been receiving unemployment benefits while awaiting the appeal, so the standard practice is for the Social Security Administration and the state Division of Employment Security officials to calculate the difference and settle the payments on their own.

Now, the young man is being told by the state Division of Employment Security that he owes them $3,000 in overpayment. That, said his attorneys, is the mistake of the agencies and their client is not liable for the error.

One reason that the Division of Employment Security has been so adamant in collecting payment is the crackdown on overpayment to the unemployed. There is still no clear proof that the young man has been overpaid, but his lawyers assert that even if there is, he shouldn't be the one to pay the difference.

The two agencies consulted, as is common, and they claim they can't go back now and change it.

A representative from an advocacy organization said that this is certainly not the first time a mentally disabled individual has been caught between the two agencies. One agency assumes you are able to work and should not collect benefits while the other assumes you are unable to work and should collect benefits. When the two are at odds, it is sometimes the beneficiary who suffers.

Source: STLtoday.com, "Mentally ill Dardenne Prairie man challenges unemployment bureaucracy", Steve Giegerich, March 23, 2012

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