Children of Three Deceased SSI Recipients Settle Federal Lawsuit Over Benefits Paid After Deaths

December 3, 2011

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program administered by Social Security Administration (SSA) .  According to SSI's homepage  :


Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes):

  • It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and
  • It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and assist aged, blind, and /or disabled individuals with limited incomes.   

On November 28, 2011, in a civil Complaint filed by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed in White Plains, NY, Lauro and Juanita Mendoza (the "Defendants Mendoza") were alleged to have fraudulently collected SSI payments from SSA.  United States of America vs. Lauro and Juanita Mendoza (SDNY, 2011cv08620, November 28,. 2011).


Specifically, the Complaint alleged that the Lauro Mendoza's parents, Purificacion  (the father) and Venancio Mendoza (the mother); and Juanita Mendoza's father, Dionesio Filameo, had received monthly SSI payments. The SSI payments to the three parents were deposited into bank accounts for which the Defendants Mendoza had access.


On July 25, 1998, and April 9, 2001, and December 5, 2006, respectively, Lauro Mendoza's father Purificacion and mother Venancio, and Juanita's father Dionesio Filameo died.  SSA continued making monthly SSI payments to the three deceased individuals, apparently unaware of their deaths.


The Complaint alleged that the Defendants Mendoza failed to notify SSA of their parents' deaths and did not return the deposited funds, in violation of the False Claims Act and various common laws (including "unjust enrichment").


On December 2, 2011, the Defendants Mendoza settled the case by acknowledging that that had wrongfully retained the SSI payments and agreed to pay about $178,000 in improperly retained SSI payments plus interest.  The Defendants Mendoza will pay a $50,000 civil penalty. 

SIDE BAR:  SSI offers the following guidelines in the event of the death of a recipient of benefits :

A family member or other person responsible for the beneficiary's affairs should do the following:

·         Promptly notify Social Security of the beneficiary's death by calling SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. (TTY 1-800-325-0778.)

·         If monthly benefits were being paid via direct deposit, notify the bank or other financial institution of the beneficiary's death. Request that any funds received for the month of death and later be returned to Social Security as soon as possible.

·         If benefits were being paid by check, DO NOT CASH any checks received for the month in which the beneficiary died or thereafter. Return the checks to Social Security as soon as possible.