Last Updated: May 9, 2022. Report error / Make suggestion

Will Receiving a Blake LFO Refund Check Affect My Social Security Benefits?

If you have your drug possession conviction vacated because of the State v. Blake court decision, you may get a refund for the money you previously paid to the court because of that conviction. These fees are sometimes called legal financial obligations (LFOs). If you receive a check from the court refunding these LFOs that you previously paid, this check may impact your Social Security Benefits.

If you are receiving SSDI or Retirement Benefits, programs that require work and tax payments, a Blake refund check will not put your benefits at risk because these are not need-based programs. However, if you receive SSI benefits, they may be affected by receiving a Blake refund check.

To find out which type of benefits you have, you can look at your letters from Social Security which should label which benefits you are receiving. Additionally, if you are receiving exactly the Federal Benefit Rate of $841 for an individual or $1261 for a couple, you are likely receiving SSI. On the other hand, if you are receiving more than the Federal Benefit Rate, you are likely receiving Title II benefits, for example, SSDI.

Will social security count the Blake check as a resource?

You are not eligible for SSI benefits if you have over $2,000 in resources. Resources include bank accounts, vehicles (if you have more than one), and other financial accounts. This limit is $3000 for a couple.

Sometimes Social Security makes exceptions for certain types of resources where they give you a grace period to spend the money before they count it as a resource. For example, when SSI beneficiaries received Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) during the beginning of the pandemic, they were given a 12-month grace period to spend the money before it counted as a resource that could put them over the limit. It is not clear at this time if Social Security will make an exception like this for Blake refund payments.

Will Social Security count the Blake check as income?

If you get SSI benefits, Social Security will reduce your benefits based on any income you receive. This includes unearned income, like gifts. Social Security will probably not count the Blake refund checks as income because they are refunds of money you have already earned.SeeSSA – POMS: SI 00815.250

What should you do?

If you receive a refund:

Report the check to Social Security by calling your local Social Security field office and informing them that you received this check and explain to them that it is a refund.

You will also want to spend the Blake refund check quickly. Social Security counts your resources on the first of the month, so if you spend the Blake check before the first of the month, it will not count as resources for that month. You can put resources in a special needs trust account or an ABLE account. You can also spend down the resources on things that Social Security does not count as resources.

Things you can spend money on for a “spend down:”

  • Household goods or personal effects – for example electronics, appliances, furniture etc.
  • The home you live in
  • Your first vehicle, if used for transportation
  • Burial spaces
  • Burial funds up to $1500
  • Property used in a trade or business

What if Social Security reduces your benefit amount because they count your Blake refund as income.

Send a Request for Reconsideration (SSA Form 561) to Social Security and in it explain that the check was not income because it was a refund. This needs to be done within ten days to retain your benefits while they decide. You may include the citation to this Social Security rule for rebates and refunds: “SSA – POMS: SI 00815.250

What if Social Security issues an overpayment claiming that you need to pay back the benefits you already received because your Blake refund put you over the resource limit for several months?

You can file a Request for Reconsideration form mentioned above, arguing that an exception to the resource limit should apply because this payment is unique and was a refund.

You may also send a Request for a Waiver (SSA Form 632)to Social Security and explain that there should be an exception to the resource limit because this payment is unique. Also, you will want to explain on this form that you were not at fault for the overpayment, and you cannot afford to repay the overpayment.

What if I need help with my social security problem related to a Blake LFO refund?

You can contact: