Four plaintiffs along with the National Federation of the Blind, are suing the Social Security Administration in federal court. They seek a court order requiring SSA to allow e-signatures on applications rather than requiring a “wet-ink” signature when the applicant is using an attorney or other authorized representative. SSA does not require wet-ink signatures for applications for some benefits when an authorized representative is not being used by the applicant. The suit contends that the requirement has always been discriminatory, but during the COVID-19 pandemic it also endangers the health and even the lives of applicants, as even SSA has recognized in quarantining its own mail for two days and shutting down its field offices.
The lawsuit also asks the court to order SSA to allow blind people to fill out the application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) online. Blind people are categorically excluded from applying for this benefit using the online application. The suit also asks that the court require e-signatures to be accepted on paperwork required when a beneficiary is subject to a continuing disability review (CDR), as is one of the blind plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs are represented by Eve L. Hill, Andrew D. Freeman, and Abigail A. Graber of the Baltimore law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
“The Social Security Administration regularly interacts with hundreds of thousands of blind people and other consumers with disabilities,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Yet policies like this one persist, despite the fact that the SSA has both the authority and the capability to accept electronic signatures. It is both unlawful and unconscionable that this agency continues to place blind and disabled consumers at a severe disadvantage, especially during a life-threatening global pandemic. Government should innovate, not discriminate.”