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Government wants hold on Social Security lawsuits

Updated: November 9, 2013 6:20AM



The federal shutdown is hitting more people in Northwest Indiana as federal judges have agreed to put on hold about a dozen civil lawsuits, including those against the Social Security Administration.

People who have had their applications for Social Security benefits denied can file suit against the department, seeking an appeal. But attorneys for the government say they can’t try these cases in U.S. District Court in Hammond until the shutdown is over. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, criminal cases will continue, but civil cases are being cut back.

“Obviously, any delay is bad news for anybody,” said Chicago attorney Fred Daley, who represents a client in Hammond.

Daley said federal attorneys want a 45-day delay, which was granted in 11 cases. Although lawsuits against the Social Security Administration are known for taking a long time — up to two years — adding even 45 days hurts people even more, Daley said. People who file such suits already have gone through the long process of applying for and being denied benefits.

Farley said the bigger problem for his clients is that the hold means they also can’t reapply for benefits, something he typically suggests they do while waiting on their appeal. This is especially hard for people who don’t have the benefit of another income in their house.

Farley also noted that he still has to pay his employees and contractors, so to generate income he might have to take on cases in other area. That means if a backlog of new cases grows before the shutdown ends, it will take some time before plaintiffs can get their cases moving forward.

“It’s a situation where longer and longer and longer delays have a significant impact on everybody,” Farley said.

The shutdown is also stalling a lawsuit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed against Ultra Food’s parent company, SVT LLC, in which the EEOC claimed the grocery store chain discriminated against women by not hiring them in night stocking positions. A hearing in the case was set for Oct. 17, but that was canceled Monday. It will be reset once the shutdown ends, according to court records.



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