LOS ANGELES (Jul. 15)
Bet Tzedek Legal Services has announced it will appeal a recent federal court decision here upholding “a precedent-setting” decision by the Social Security Administration (SSA) terminating Supplementary Security Income (SSI) to a disabled Holocaust survivor because she gets a small monthly restitution payment from the West German government.
Terry Friedman, Bet Tzedek Legal Services executive director, in announcing the public service legal agency’s plan to appeal the decision next month, said Bet Tzedek would pursue the most vigorous appeal possible, as well as work strongly for passage of a bill introduced recently in the House of Representatives by Rep. Henry Waxman (D. Cal.) in response to the plight of Felicia Grunfeder and similar Holocaust victims receiving restitution payments. SSI payments are made to poor persons who receive too little or no Social Security payments.
Waxman’s bill, introduced last May, would exclude West German reparations in Social Security Administration calculations in determining SSI eligibility for Holocaust survivors. Waxman, who said his bill has 34 co-sponsors so far, introduced it after he learned of the reclassification of Ms. Grunfeder’s income status. The SSA declared Ms. Grunfeder’s monthly reparations payments unearned income, holding it placed her total income above the eligibility limit for SSI. She filed suit when the SSI payments were ended last summer.
Josh Lazar, the Bet Tzedek attorney who is representing Ms. Grunfeder, expressed particular disappointment over the failure of Federal Judge Cynthia Hall to issue a written opinion in support of her decision barring SSI payments to Ms. Grunfeder.
“The court treated the case as if it were a routine SSI complaint, instead of a precedent-setting case of national significance affecting the rights of thousands of elderly and disabled survivors” of the Holocaust throughout the United States, Lazar said.
Friedman urged President Reagan to use his executive authority to direct the Social Security Administration to change a “heartless policy, which utterly disregards the unspeakable persecution suffered by Holocaust victims.”