Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Weil Gotshal Pro Bono Efforts Help Elderly and Disabled Immigrants in New York Win Social Security Benefits

(August 30, 2005, Weil Gotshal Press Release)

New York, August 30, 2005 - A four-way partnership between Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, the Legal Aid Society, the New York Legal Assistance and the Empire Justice Center Group won a resounding court victory last week for impoverished elderly and disabled immigrants who were no longer eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). State Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon ruled that New York State must meet the basic needs of elderly and disabled immigrants, even if the federal government will not. The decision will benefit thousands of immigrants with special needs who rely on the State to help pay their rent, utilities and transportation costs.

The case was brought by legal immigrants after Congress restricted SSI benefits to disabled refugees and asylees for a limited duration of seven years. Unfortunately, long delays and onerous requirements prevented many immigrants from naturalizing before losing their SSI benefits, ultimately reducing their monthly incomes and making it difficult to afford rent, utilities and other basic necessities. The decision recognizes New York State's Constitutional and statutory obligations to needy residents, regardless of their immigration status.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer, Richard Slack of Weil Gotshal who worked on the matter pro bono, said, “This is a humane and important decision. It means that elderly and disabled immigrants who are poor will no longer have to choose between paying their rent and eating dinner.” Furthermore, he expressed that “it was very gratifying to work in a partnership with Legal Aid, the Greater Upstate Legal Project and NYLAG. We all offered our expertise and contributed to a change that will do a lot of people good.”

Justice Solomon held that the State's refusal to meet the needs of disabled immigrants violates the State Constitution, which requires New York State to meet the basic needs of all of its indigent residents regardless of immigration status. The judge also held that treating disabled immigrants more harshly than disabled citizens violates the Equal Protection Clause. The decision applies to all lawfully residing elderly, blind and disabled immigrants, including those who were never eligible to receive SSI.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges is an international law firm of more than 1,200 lawyers, including 300 partners. Weil Gotshal is headquartered in New York, with 20 offices in Austin, Boston, Brussels, Budapest, Dallas, Frankfurt, Houston, London, Miami, Munich, New York, Paris, Prague, Providence, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Shanghai, Warsaw, Washington DC and Wilmington.
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