A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘disability’

U.S. Law with a Serious Flaw

homelessA new law is on the books that promises great harm to people that can afford it the least.

The law bars creditors from seizing Social Security payments and other federal benefits for veterans, the poor, the aged and the disabled. But banks often said they could not determine the source of customers’ deposits and allowed creditors to garnish accounts containing federal funds. The new rule adds electronic tags to automatically deposited government payments and requires banks to protect tagged deposits made in the prior two months.

Here’s the issue: The new rule will still allow seizure of all funds in an account if a state is trying to collect unpaid child support. That may seem to be a good way to get tough on deadbeat dads, but it will cause undue harm.

In a letter to the commissioner of Social Security, the National Consumer Law Center and 72 other advocacy groups pointed out that 70 percent of uncollected child support is owed by people who live below the poverty line and much of the debt arose because support obligations were not revised when the debtor became disabled, unemployed or incarcerated. Since the debts are often old, the amounts have been inflated by interest and penalties.

To both collect the debts and avoid driving these debtors into complete destitution, the law allows Social Security to withhold up to 65 percent of a benefit to cover unpaid child support — and to pay the recipient the rest. Recipients of reduced benefits have been able to shield the remainder by receiving their payment via paper check and simply cashing it. Starting next year, all government benefits will be automatically deposited. If the rule is not amended, the full amount will be subject to seizure.

The way to fix the problem is to rework the garnishment rule so that it treats child support debts the same way it treats other debts. Fixing the rule would not excuse nonpayment of child support. Rather, it would achieve what the law intended by ensuring that no one is impoverished by ruthless debt collection.

original post at New York Times: February 23, 2012

Paperless Child Support Payments May Cost Poor Fathers Only

check book slavery

Old child support debts could cost thousands of poor men their only income next year because of a policy aimed at reducing the cost to the government of mailing paper checks to pay federal benefits.

The Treasury Department will start paying benefits electronically next March. It will stop issuing the paper checks that many people rely on to safeguard a portion of their benefits from states trying to collect back child support.

States can freeze the bank accounts of people who owe child support. A separate Treasury Department rule, in place since last May in a preliminary form, guarantees them the power to freeze Social Security, disability and veterans’ benefits that have been deposited into those accounts.

Once paper checks are eliminated, about 275,000 people could lose access to all of their income, advocates say.

“It’s kind of Orwellian, what’s being set up here for a segment of the population,” says Johnson Tyler, an attorney who represents poor and disabled people collecting federal benefits. “It’s going to be a nightmare in about a year unless something changes.”

In many cases, the bills are decades old and the children long grown. Much of the money owed is interest and fees that add up when men are unable to pay because they are disabled, institutionalized or imprisoned.

Most of the money will go to governments, not to the children of the men with child support debts, independent analyses show. States are allowed to keep child support money as repayment for welfare previously provided for those children.

In some instances, the grown children are supporting their fathers.

The rule change illustrates how a politically desirable goal like cracking down on so-called deadbeat dads can have complicated, even counterproductive, effects in practice.

“The rule doesn’t look at the fact that the money is mostly interest, the money is going to the state, the kids are usually adults, and it’s leaving the payer with nothing,” says Ashlee Highland, a legal aid attorney who works with the poor of Chicago.

Highland says her office has clients in eviction, in foreclosure and unable to pay their bills because of states’ aggressive efforts to collect back child support.

Marcial Herrera, 44, has had his bank account frozen repeatedly since 2009, blocking his access to $800 a month in government benefits. Unable to work because of a severe back injury he suffered in 2000, Herrera fell behind on child support. He owes more than $7,000 – not to his 22-year-old son, but to the state of New York, because his son received welfare years earlier.

Herrera sought help in court and had his son speak on his behalf, but the judge could not erase the thousands he already owed.

“I’m just waiting for them to lock me up,” he says. “I don’t see no other way of me repaying that debt.”

A legal aid attorney suggested Herrera collect his benefits by paper check. It costs him $15 to cash the check each month, but at least he can be sure that he will have money to pay his bills.

States have had the ability to freeze accounts for years. That’s why people like Herrera rely on paper checks to safeguard part of their income.

Starting next March, that option will disappear. The Treasury Department will deposit federal benefits directly into bank accounts or load them onto prepaid debit cards. Either way, state child support agencies will be able to seize all of it.

Electronic payments are expected to save the government $1 billion over the next 10 years, the Treasury Department says. It costs the government about $1 to mail a check, compared with about 10 cents for an electronic transfer.

The Treasury Department understands that forcing people into direct deposit could deprive them of all of their income, say officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the rule-writing process.

States can garnish only 65 percent of benefits before the federal government sends them out. But the limit does not apply once the money is in an account and states ask banks to freeze it, according to a Treasury Department memo obtained by The Associated Press.

A Treasury spokesman declined to discuss the policy. The officials who spoke on condition of anonymity say they believe the policy is legally unavoidable. They described a dilemma: Restrain states trying to collect child-support debts or risk depriving thousands of people of their only income.

Treasury’s legal justification assumes that receiving a paper check is still an option, says Tyler, the Brooklyn attorney.

Letting state agencies seize the money contradicts the public stance of the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency in charge of child support collections. The department does not want states to collect child support so aggressively that poor people lose their only income, spokesman Ken Wolfe says.

“Child support enforcement – getting that money and passing it on to parents and children – is a measure to fight poverty, and it doesn’t make sense to accomplish that by impoverishing somebody else,” he says.

Wolfe said HHS is developing guidelines for states to “make sure we’re not putting someone into deep poverty as a result of an automatic collection.” He declined to provide details of those plans.

Lawyers from HHS agreed with Treasury’s decision to let states seize benefits, according to the Treasury memo.

An early version of the Treasury department rule protected people from having their federal benefits frozen by debt collectors – including private collection agencies and states seeking back child support.

State child support agencies replied in public comments on the proposed rule that blocking their access to people’s benefits would cause great harm to parents and children receiving child support.

HHS research suggests the policy could deepen the hardship for people who collect benefits as well.

People who owe large amounts of child support are almost universally poor. Among those owing $30,000 or more, three-fourths had no reported income or income of less than $10,000, HHS says. Many had their earnings interrupted by disability or jail time and are unlikely to repay the child support debt, the government-sponsored research says.

The usual methods of collecting back child support often don’t work with the poor. States typically start by garnishing wages. If that doesn’t work, they can suspend driver’s licenses, revoke passports and take away professional credentials.

Those measures have little effect on poor people without jobs who rely on federal benefits. They have no wages to garnish and no passports. Many can’t afford a car and do not need a driver’s license.

State child support agencies echo the HHS view that child support enforcement should not be so draconian that people end up with nothing.

“You don’t want the noncustodial parent to go out and be living on the streets. You’re not going to collect anything at that point,” says Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The Idaho department requires people who owe child support to show good faith by paying a minimum amount and seeking jobs when they are out of work, Shanahan says.

The White House is reviewing the final version of the rule. Its impact so far has been limited, legal-aid lawyers say, because people can still use paper checks. A White House spokeswoman did not respond a request for comment.

In a letter sent last week, the National Consumer Law Center and dozens of other groups called on the head of the Social Security Administration to withdraw his support for the rule.

“While both current and past due child support orders should be paid,” the letter said, it should not result “in the complete impoverishment of recipients” of federal benefits.

The issue has failed to raise alarm in part because most people feel little in common with men labeled deadbeat dads, says John Vail, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Litigation who provided legal services for the poor for decades.

“There’s not a lot of sympathy for deadbeat dads, and justly so,” Vail says. “But everybody’s got limits, and I think people who have never walked a mile in some of those old, worn-out shoes are a little quick to rush to judgment about what that life might be like.”

from the Huffington Post

Child Support: New Wrinkle to Garnishing Your Social Security

decisions about wealth and lifestyleHere’s an off-the-wall retirement planning wrinkle.

New rules take affect May 1 that make it much harder for creditors to garnish Social Security, veterans pensions, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability from recipients who owe them money.

The new U.S. Treasury rule requires all banks to determine whether an account contains these protected funds. If an account contains protected funds, the bank is required to protect two months’ of benefit payments from garnishment. Protection of more than two months’ of benefit payments requires additional court filings and in practice, makes these funds immune from seizure by creditors, says Margot Saunders, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.

It works like this. You fail to pay your car payment and the car dealer comes and takes the car, then he sues and gets a judgment against you for the remainder of what you owe him. He goes to the bank and attempts to garnish your money. Under the new rule, the creditor can pick any day he wants for the garnishment and the bank must respond by looking at your account for the previous 60 days. Let’s say you received a $1,100 Social Security payment one month and another $1,100 Social Security payment the next month. That $2,200 is protected. If there is any other money above and beyond that amount that has been deposited in the account during that period and is still sitting there, the creditor gets it. If there is no other money, the creditor is out of luck. He gets bupkis.

There are two exceptions, Saunders says: money you owe Uncle Sam and money you owe in child support. If you have these kind of debts, an attorney or the IRS can petition Social Security directly and collect.

If a debt collector begs to differ, Saunders points them to this statement on the Social Security website. She says garnishment of Social Security has always been against the law, but creditors have found ways around it. This change in the rule should eliminate those loopholes. On the other hand, if you fear you might find yourself in this kind of debt-collection dilemma during your retirement, the best way to protect yourself is to have your Social Security check deposited into an account that you don’t use for anything else.

Human Slavery & Trafficking in the USA

by E.J. Manning

slavery to childrenTo define slavery on any level is a hot topic, whether forced labor, labor in bondage, slavery or trafficking. Today, several standards are used.

CNN claims that “slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically, pays them nothing and they cannot walk away.” This is a nice general definition except for the part about paying nothing. Underemployment and underpayment, which is robbery through force or coercion is not addressed. Nations love legalized slavery that can be justified. Even the “generous and freedom-espousing” United States has become a robber baron of the people while pretending to be interested in the rights of citizens and democracy. Other modern nations mandate similar policies in the name of what is often an arbitrary degree of fairness.

The United Nations has made themselves a political authority on the topic of human slavery and trafficking. What is interesting is that they try to deny any definition of slavery and instead focus on human trafficking, particularly against women.

Human trafficking is defined in the U.N. Trafficking Protocol as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of adbuction, or fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”

The definition on trafficking consists of three core elements:

1) the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons

2) includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability

3) trafficking which is always exploitation. In the words of the Trafficking Protocol, article 3 “exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

kangaroo court
legal rights and lawbreaking

The United Nations already knows that a number of modern nations are on the fence where their definition of human trafficking is concerned. How? This is simply based on how they treat and handle their own citizens. However, this is simply ignored as legal behavior where space-holding nations are concerned. While these definitions are fairly broad by design, you can see that using the United Nations protocol, even the major sponsor and shareholder of the United Nations, the United States, is riding the borders of the  illegal human trafficking of its citizens through the repeated violations of Constitutional Rights of citizens through a kangaroo court system based on unequal representation, through the adversarial execution of the Bradley Amendment for Social Security which results in jailing, punitive fines, enforcement of poverty (economic oppression) and removing the ability of citizens to make a living.

When you haul a man or woman to jail with the intent to coerce him or her into paying child support or any other civil obligation, you satisfy the first, second and third definitions of human trafficking. The government is transporting, transferring, harboring and receiving citizens into custody in order to exploit them against the guaranteed rights of an American citizen. They seek to coerce and bully, to exploit into forced labor and servitude against their will and against the original provisions of the nation. This doesn’t matter, however, because of “legal precedence,” the current standard of justice in the United States.

The United Nations says that this matters. Too bad nobody is listening.

captiveIt has been said that slaves are not allowed to walk away from their jobs. This is hardly the case. Many cannot work. In wealthier nations, these poor souls may be on disability through no real fault of their own. Even with slavery “outlawed,” estimates are that 27 million slaves fit the classical definition of slaves by world authorities, even though that definition is not crystal clear. More and more, citizens are becoming bonded laborers in their own nations as the leaders spend money like water to pander and garner influence. Poverty is cast upon the people as if it is a badge of honor to sacrifice for the better of the nation.

Nations like the United States pretend to help as they play political and social slight of hand.

Consider this. For those that are not at the bottom of the social ladder, ending poverty and oppression would be a disaster. If there were no poverty or oppression in the world, who would plow the fields? Who would harvest our vegetables and pick blueberries? Who would work in the rendering plants? Who would clean our toilets? Who would pay the bills even though nobody really does, preferring to borrow to pay another day?  No wonder people at the high end are not rushing to solve the poverty and oppression. The authorities and many with influence benefit from poverty and oppression, even by violating the rights of other human beings. For many, poverty and legalized oppression is not a problem, but an asset.

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Human Slavery & Trafficking in the USA by E.J. Manning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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Anniversary of Bradley Amendment Continues Child Support Discussion

by Killeen Gonzalez

May 5, 2011, marks the 25th anniversary of the controversial Bradley Amendment. In 1986, the Bradley Amendment was enacted into federal law as an amendment to Title IV of the Social Security Act thanks to the likes of then-Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley.

What is the Bradley Amendment?

The Bradley Amendment is a series of laws that were designed to prohibit non-custodial parents from having their child support arrears reduced or eliminated regardless of the circumstances. In addition, the amendment allowed child support enforcement workers to disregard changes in a non-custodial parent’s circumstances like job loss, incarceration, military service or physical disability in certain instances.

Furthermore, it gave the same workers the ability to pursue legal remedies against the non-custodial parent the moment a payment was missed without having to first go through a quasi-judicial or judicial proceeding. These legal remedies included asset seizure, un-expiring property liens, driver’s license suspension, professional license suspension, suspension of voting privileges and incarceration.

Why is the Bradley Amendment Controversial?

Opponents believe that, in part, by granting such capabilities to child support workers, the Bradley Amendment effectively disregarded the non-custodial parent’s constitutional rights of due process and equal protection as well as disregarded the unconstitutionality of what equates to nothing more than a “debtors’ prison.”

The rights of due process and equal protection were given to Americans after the Civil War as part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although 14th Amendment violations are most often cited by social advocacy groups, arguments have also been made that the Bradley Amendment violates the fifth, eight, ninth and 10th amendments as well.

Due process essentially ensures that all Americans are entitled to be heard in their own defense, have a right to legal representation even if they cannot afford a lawyer on their own, have a right to a fair and public trial with a jury of one’s peers and property taken by the government may only be done for public purposes and the government must reimburse that person the fair market value for that property.

The right of equal protection goes hand in hand with the right to due process and is designed to keep states from unfairly applying its laws to individuals under their jurisdiction. In this case, opponents of the Bradley Amendment believe that the laws are unfairly applied against the poor.

According to the Southern Center for Human Rights, in the state of Georgia alone there are over 500 non-custodial parents who are incarcerated over failure to pay child support. Of those non-custodial parents currently incarcerated, the majority were not given legal representation and are considered indigent.

The group’s website also cites that 70 percent of outstanding child support debt in this nation is owed by non-custodial parents who make less than $10,000 a year. According to the federal government’s poverty guidelines for 2011, an individual making $10,890 or less a year in most states is considered poor. This gives credence to the argument that the Bradley Amendment unjustly targets people living at or below poverty level.

Furthermore, another item that has been called into question related to the Bradley Amendment and the child support system as a whole is the money trail associated with child support enforcement. What many people may not realize is that not all money collected by child support enforcement workers goes to the custodial parent; some of it goes to the state and federal government to pay welfare debts.

Moreover, the state receives matching federal funds. Those matching funds then go, in part, to pay the salaries of the child support workers, as well as the law enforcement and legal representatives who assist them in collection efforts.

In addition, once a person is incarcerated, some prisons charge fines and fees to the inmates for such things as room, board and medical costs. Such was the case in Clinch County, Georgia, where detainees at the Clinch County Jail were unlawfully charged $18 a day for room and board regardless of whether they were later found innocent and released. A civil class action lawsuit was eventually filed on behalf of those detainees; the judge ruled that the sheriff had to return all illegal fees.

Challenges to the Bradley Amendment, Past and Present

Since its inception, the constitutionality of the Bradley Amendment, and child support in general, have been repeatedly called into question throughout the nation. Early cases in point include one from the Massachusetts District Court, one from Florida’s Sixth Judicial Court as well as the case of Michelle Sweat, which was heard in Georgia by Superior Court Judge C. Diane Perkins in February 2002. The judges in each of those cases found aspects of child support laws to be unconstitutional.

From 2004 through 2006, there were moves made on behalf of the American people to get both the courts and the U.S. Congress to repeal the Bradley Amendment entirely on the basis that it is unconstitutional. The case was ultimately dismissed in February 2006. That, however, was not the end of the discussion by any means.

In July 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and Sen. Evan Bayh came under fire for their introduction of the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007, which was also seen as unconstitutional by some groups. The introduction of the act revived the earlier arguments against the Bradley Amendment, which brings us to the most recent challenge made to the constitutionality of the law.

On March 22, the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a civil rights class action lawsuit on behalf of six non-custodial parents from several Georgia counties. At this time, the case is still pending.

Sources:

Congressional Research, “The Bradley Amendment: Prohibition against Retroactive Modification of Child Support Arrearages” Congressional Research

Associated Press “Parents Sue Ga. Over child support jail time” The Augusta Chronicle

The Law Office of the Southern Center for Human Rights, “Debtor’s Prison” Southern Center for Human Rights

The Law Office of Southern Center for Human Rights, “Georgia Deprives Children as Indigent Parents Languish in Debtor’s Jail for Inability to Pay Child support” Southern Center for Human Rights

William Akins, “Why Georgia’s Child Support Laws are Unconstitutional” Georgia Bar Journal

Cornell University Law School, “Equal Protection” Cornell University Law School

E Manning, “Obama Attacks Constitutional Rights of Non-Custodial Parents” Newsvine.com

Center for Law and Social Policy, “Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Family Act of 2007” Center for Law and Social Policy

Christine Vestal, “Child Support Enforcement Takes a Hit” Stateline.org

U.S. Department Health and Human Services, “The 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines” ASPE.hhs.gov

Phyllis Schlafly, “Repeal the Bradley Amendment” Restoring America

Alliance for Non-Custodial Parent’s Rights, “U.S. District Court of MA Civil Docket” ANCPR.com

Divorcenet “The Bradley Amendment: How Does it Affect Men’s Child Support” Divorcenet.com

Disability Income & Child Support

Can a custodial parent collect overdue payments from social security recipients of disability? Yes, according to case 79-4. The SSA can retain a percentage that could hold the IRS responsible to pay delinquent income tax debt. However, state laws may prohibit this from happening.

§6331 of the Internal Revenue Code gives the Secretary of the Treasury the right to collect or seize control disabilities. §6305 of IRS Code authorizes the Treasury, after receiving a certification by the Minister of Health, Education and Welfare under section 452 (b) of the Social Security Act on the amount of delinquent child support obligation for assessing and collecting the individual ‘ amount in the same way, the same limitations as if such amount were income tax collection.

The IRS Code provides that no interest or penalties  are to be assessed or levied, and observations by the IRS must be disabled for delinquent child support debtor 60 days before the garnishment of benefits. In other words, if payments are being made, the IRS cannot double dip those payments by collecting more.

What does  this mean for you? This depends on what side you are on. If you believe that the non-custodial parent has filed for social security disability, you or your lawyer should be to contact SSA with evidence of delinquency. If you live in the country of the debtor’s mother, then it may be necessary to work through the child support agency in your locale which issues statements in any state child support.

You must be aware that the SSA (social security) does not reveal whether the other parent filed for disability since that would be a violation of privacy laws.

 

The Dark Underbelly & Child Support

Many households have never paid bills for themselves: Utilities came with public housing, food stamps helped with groceries and everything else was paid for in cash. Not surprisingly, the priority was to keep receiving benefits and, if possible, increase them. That meant keeping live-in boyfriends – even if one was the father of a child in the household – off the lease lest the man’s income lead to a rent increase. It also meant suggesting to school authorities that a child might have a learning disability – such a designation could bestow nearly $300 a month in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the household. (School officials reportedly are often eager to comply because excluding hard-to-teach students could boost schoolwide test results.)

Reinventing Public Housing

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