New Yorkers Living with HIV/AIDs Secure Critical Class Action Settlement

On April 3, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York approved the class action settlement entered into between recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) living in New York City who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS and the City of New York. Plaintiffs are represented by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, HIV Law Project, and African Services Committee, which brought suit challenging the City’s unlawful retaining of portions of the class members’ retroactive SSI benefits. Under the law, the City may recover money from the initial SSI payment for the interim assistance paid from state or local funds to the SSI applicant while the applicant awaits his or her SSI determination, but it cannot recover assistance that had been paid from federal funds. The case specifically challenged the City’s unlawful recovery of federal housing benefits provided to class members through the federal Housing Opportunities for People Living With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

At the time the suit was filed, Marc Cohan, NCLEJ Litigation Director, said “Poor people with AIDS are being deprived of income they are entitled to under Federal and State laws. The City should not be enlarging its coffers at the expense of poor, disabled people.”

Following the filing of the lawsuit, the City mailed payments of nearly $800,000 to 264 class members and established processes for separating HOPWA-funded payments in its calculations of interim assistance. The settlement not only requires the City to exclude HOPWA payments from its interim assistance calculations but also requires the City to provide class members with an explanation of which benefits are recoverable and how to obtain more information about the calculations that were performed. The settlement further requires the City to designate a representative to investigate inquiries that the HIV Law Project may forward regarding interim assistance recovery and HOPWA-funded payments and provide monitoring to plaintiffs’ counsel.

Marc Cohan and Tedde Tasheff of NCLEJ are co-counsel in this case with Tracy Welsh and Alison Yager of HIV Law Project and Andrea Panjwani and Chitra Aiyar of African Services Committee.

See the press release issued when the case was filed.