Willie Monteith Receives Disability Benefits After Historic Lawsuit

Submitted by Chris on

In a perfect world, the Social Security Disability programs would always work the way it should. Disabled individuals would apply for the benefits they need and a few months later those benefits would start coming in and would keep coming in as needed.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Oftentimes the Social Security Disability system does not work as it should and innocent people suffer because of it. The case of Willie Monteith is a perfect example of this fact.

The Story Behind Willie M.'s Case

Willie Monteith, commonly known as Willie M., had been the focus of a class-action lawsuit nearly 30 years ago. Willie grew up in the foster care system and struggled with mental illness. Mental illnesses can affect mental residual functional capacity. The lawsuit forced North Carolina to pay $744 million on a program that would be known as the “Willie M.” program. This program provided upgraded care and group homes for Willie Monteith and other children suffering from problems similar to his. Over the years, the program has managed to change hundreds of lives.

Unfortunately, after Willie became too old to remain in the program that he was so instrumental in funding, he fell into the drug trade and ended up serving time in prison. During this time, the Social Security Administration stopped giving Willie the disability benefits he had been receiving. This is not uncommon or uncalled for, as all Social Security Disability recipients have benefits stopped during incarceration. However, those benefits are supposed to begin again once the disabled individual has been released from prison.

In 2009 Willie was released from prison and asked for a restoration of his Social Security Disability benefits. The request was denied. The SSA's reasoning was that Willie wouldn't be disabled if he'd stop using drugs and alcohol. Oddly enough, Willie was deemed to be disabled long before his drug and alcohol use began and experts agree that drugs and alcohol are often methods of self-medicating for those who suffer from such mental illnesses.

What became of the man who was the reason that the State of North Carolina was able to generate millions of additional dollars to change so many young lives? He became homeless.

Appealing Injustice

Willie M. may not have been the perfect upstanding citizen, but he did not deserve to be homeless as a result of his lifetime disabilities. When the SSA refused to reinstate Willie's benefits, that's exactly what happened. Willie began living out of the back of an abandoned tractor trailer, but he did not give up hope. Instead, he decided to appeal the SSA's decision to deny his Social Security Disability benefits and went to war with the system.

Fortunately, Willie's story has a happy ending. With proper representation, Willie was able to overturn the SSA's decision to deny the restoration of his Social Security Disability benefits and in May of 2011, his benefits resumed. Willie will not have to be homeless anymore and he plans on staying off drugs and alcohol and is working with a non-profit organization (who is acting as a representative payee) to help him stay on the straight and narrow.

The future is brighter for Willie now that he is receiving the Social Security Disability benefits he deserves. His story is an inspiring one that can hopefully serve as a beacon to others who have been unjustly denied disability benefits, encouraging them to appeal the SSA's decision and win.

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