Law | Trust

Social Security Administration issues ruling on trust payouts





Tribal members who receive a share of a trust fund settlement won't lose Social Security or Medicare benefits under a recent ruling from the Social Security Administration.

A total of 41 tribes reached settlements with the Obama administration totaling more than $1 billion. Some tribes are sharing the money with their members on a per capita basis but it was unclear whether Social Security or Medicare benefits would be affected.

So the Ute Tribe of Utah asked SSA to determine whether accepting a per capita payment would affect eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicare Part D Extra Help. An emergency message issued in June clarified the issue for all 41 tribes, plus three more that reached settlements.

“I am very pleased that we have been able to secure this decision for the benefit of our tribal members, who will no longer have to worry about losing their Social Security or Medicare benefits as a result of the per capita distribution of these monies from the tribe’s trust mismanagement case," Chairwoman Irene Cuch said in a press release. "This is a huge relief for our Tribe and all the tribes that have received a settlement and provided it to their members.”

“The Social Security Administration decision is a tremendous victory for all Tribes who have settled or will settle trust mismanagement cases with the United States and relieves the most vulnerable tribal members that receive assistance from federal need-based programs from the worry that accepting a one-time distribution would deprive them of crucial, sometimes life-saving, medical and income benefits," added Cuch.

After receiving its settlement, the tribe distributed the money to its 3,200 members. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed.

The tribe was represented by Fredericks Peebles & Morgan.

Relevant Documents:
Tribal Trust Accounting and Management Settlement (June 13, 2012)