Disabled East Bay resident wins $100K in back benefits, surprising 2 children

OAKDALE, Calif. (KGO) -- A longtime Hayward resident recently discovered she had been shorted more than $500 a month in disability benefits for 17 years.

What happened next not only changed her life, but that of two deserving children.

Suzanne Riggs lives with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome.

She says an injury to her left ankle in 1997 went undiagnosed for two years.

"The injury itself healed, but the signals from the brain keeps saying no, there's pain, there's pain," said Suzanne.

She deals with this debilitating pain on a daily basis. But she considers her self fortunate.

"I spent seven years in a wheelchair. I was not supposed to walk again so I'm very lucky, Suzanne said.

In 2004, worker's comp awarded her a lump sum disability settlement.

That payment impacted how much she could receive from social security.

One day she noticed something odd on her statement.

"It dawned on me. I'm like, I don't think this is right."

She said she discovered she had been receiving $519 a month less than she was entitled to for 17 years.

She contacted social security, but her appeal went nowhere.

"There was no other recourse for me. No attorney would help. It was me against Social Security," she said.

She turned to 7 on Your Side. We contacted Social Security and it awarded her more than $100,000 in back payments.

Our 7 On Your Side producer asked her what that money means to her.

"I can help children."

"You're a foster parent," producer Randall Yip said.

"Yeah. We just became foster parents two weeks ago and we've got two amazing children."

She begins to cry.

"I'm sorry."

Due to confidentiality, we can't show the children.

I'm just grateful this money went to such a loving family.

"If it wasn't for you guys, this would have turned out drastically different. There was nobody to fight for me," Suzanne said.

Social security says it cannot comment on individual cases. However it did send us some tips on how to spot errors on your statement.

First: Social Security beneficiaries should become familiar with the type of benefits they receive. The best way to do that is by visiting our website which provides a wealth of information about Social Security benefits including:

  • Government Pension Offset

  • Disability Benefits

  • Retirement

  • How Work Affects Your Benefits

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


  • Second: Beneficiaries should read all notices sent from our offices and ensure they understand what is being communicated. Social Security notices contain important benefit information. If a beneficiary has questions and cannot find the answer on our website, they may reach out to their local office for assistance. The Social Security Office Locator provides contact information for individual offices.

    Third: When notified of an action, Social Security notices outline the beneficiary's appeal rights. If a beneficiary disagrees with the action described in their notice, it is important to exercise their prescribed rights in a timely manner.

    Fourth: Beneficiaries should review their earnings record and SSA-1099 annually. The SSA-1099 may be used by the beneficiary to verify that their payments are accurate. Social Security beneficiaries can access their earnings record and their SSA-1099 by creating my Social Security account.
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