United Spinal Association recently filed a complaint with the US District Court for the District of Columbia for the alleged unlawful “wet ink” signature requirements imposed on persons with disabilities in connection with applications for certain disability benefits of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The complaint, which requests judicial review and declaratory and injunctive relief, states that the wet ink signature requirements, “unlawfully, irrationally and unnecessarily interfere with persons with disabilities’ ability to pursue their rights to federal disability benefits—making an already cumbersome application process for persons with disabilities even more difficult,” according to United Spinal Association in a media release.

“The SSA has chosen to selectively comply with or ignore the laws related to electronic signatures and documents and the right to representation. It has created and reinforced unnecessary barriers for those who legitimately need and seek assistance from third parties in obtaining disability benefits.”

— James Weisman, United Spinal’s president and CEO

United Spinal asserts that the arbitrary manner in which the SSA has applied its wet signature requirements to only those applicants applying for disability benefits with a representative is a violation of the First Amendment and violates several key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The APA prevents agency actions that are arbitrary; capricious; an abuse of discretion; contrary to law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; or without observance of procedure required by law, the release continues.

“The success rate of Social Security Disability Insurance applicants is almost tripled when they are represented by attorneys and professional representatives than when they apply without a representative. Individuals applying for Social Security Disability can legally use a representative familiar with the process to ensure success. Why then, in this time of COVID-19, does the SSA confront applicants who wish to use a representative with hurdles to overcome that it does not impose on the unrepresented?”

— James Weisman

Safe, Secure Use of Electronic Forms

United Spinal and others point to the safe and secure use of electronic forms and signatures by citizens and their third-party assisters by other federal agencies, including Veterans Affairs and the Internal Revenue Service.  

The foundation for the adoption and use of electronic documents and signatures by the federal government is clearly established. These include the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Government Paper Elimination Act and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act.

United Spinal contends that the SSA has ignored, slow-walked or limited its compliance with these laws for decades, ignoring the needs of those with disabilities who seek thoughtful, fair and assessable means for obtaining the benefits for which they are eligible, per the release. 

[Source(s): United Spinal Association, PR Newswire]

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