Trial Court issued on Tuesday, November 15th, an order granting the preliminary injunction, preventing the Palau Social Security Administration from stopping or suspending Social Security Supplemental benefit payments to eligible recipients.

Olbiil Era Kelulau and five individuals in the lawsuit filed against Social Security Administration sought to prevent SSA from stopping payments of the Supplemental Benefits of $100 previously funded through national appropriations.  Government appropriations fell short of the amount needed to pay the supplemental benefits.  A law was passed mandating SSA to pay the benefits from its own Funds.

The lawsuit was filed when SSA decided not to payout the benefit citing a detrimental impact on the Social Security Fund, which, based on the actuarial study, would fail if current policies continue.

The court, in its decision granting the preliminary injunction, weighed the decision against four factors, “likelihood of success on the merits,” “plaintiffs’ irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted,” “balancing harm against injury of defendants,” and “public interest.”

According to the court order, the plaintiffs can bring a suit and therefore have likelihood of success.  Secondly, plaintiffs can suffer irreparable harm if payments are not made on time.  “Distribution of benefits is not an adequate remedy if Plaintiffs, and the thousands of recipients like them, will be unable to meet their financial obligations in the short-term, resulting in irreparable injury that cannot be alleviated with an eventual, untimely payout.”

In balancing the harm to the plaintiff against injury to the defendants, the court stated that $100 might seem small to a government agency receiving millions yearly, but it makes a whole world of difference to thousands of participants in the SS program that have limited income alternatives.

Finally, in terms of public interest, the court said it understood the “precarious position of the Retirement Fund,” but the public interest weighs more in favor of the immediate harm that comes from suspending the benefit payments.  The long-term solution solution “lies with the OEK to amend or supplement the Administration’s budget.”

So for many Social Security beneficiaries, the news provides relief that they will continue to receive their supplemental benefits.

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