High Court To Resolve Split Among Federal Courts of Appeals.
In our September 12, 2009 post on Stephens v. Astrue, 565 F.3d 131 (4th Cir. 2009), the case involved a split among the federal circuit courts on whether Social Security disability fee awards go to the claimants or their attorneys. This is not an insignificant issue, because the Government takes the view that if the award goes to the claimant that means it is subject to offset for pre-existing debts owed by claimant to governmental entities (such as child support or delinquent taxes). This could mean claimant’s attorney recovers no fees for winning disability benefits for the client. We predicted in our post that this case would need to be resolved at some point.
Well, it obviously was—in the near future!
On September 30, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Ratliff v. Astrue, an Eighth Circuit case addressing this very issue. The Supreme Court case is Astrue v. Ratliff, assigned case no. 08-1322.