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What would you do if the Social Security payments that you relied on to survive were taken away at the drop of a hat? What would you do if this resulted from a felony charge that you were not aware of or never attained? Just days ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the case:

A judge tentatively approved a settlement Tuesday to repay 80,000 Social Security recipients more than $500 million that the federal government lopped from their benefits, thanks to an anti-fugitive program that went haywire.

The problem arose from a law denying Social Security benefits to anyone fleeing from prosecution for a felony or who had been convicted and was on the run. To enforce it, the Social Security Administration ordered its staff to withhold money from anyone who was named in an arrest warrant for any state or federal felony.

The result, according to lawyers for plaintiffs in a class-action suit, was the cutoff of payments to tens of thousands of people who never fled prosecution. Most were unaware of the warrants, and some hadn’t even been charged with crimes, the lawyers said.

Several courts declared the policy illegal, and the agency revoked it as part of the settlement April 1. It now withholds benefits only for people charged with fleeing to avoid prosecution or escape custody.

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