Last week, news broke that more than 100 retired New York City police and firefighters were indicted in a massive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) scam involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to CNN, more than half the recipients involved in the alleged fraud received benefits for PTSD in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“We will chase down every penny that these dishonorable thieves fraudulently pilfered so that the truly heroic firefighters, police officers, medics, and civilians who actually risked their lives on September 11, 2001, and are now suffering because of it, can get the care that they critically need,” James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations New York told CNN.
The fraud, which spanned more than two decades, allegedly involved people being coached on how to behave during doctor visits in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. According to reports, some defendants received as much as $50,000 per year through SSDI and other funding sources, as they claimed they were no longer able to work due to the trauma caused by the 9/11 attacks.
Among the key defendants indicted were: Raymond Lavallee, 83, a lawyer and former FBI agent and Nassau County prosecutor; Thomas Hale, 89, a disability consultant; John Minerva, 61, a union official for the Detectives’ Endowment Association; and Joseph Esposito, 64, a retired police officer.
According to CNN, the charges faced by those indicted range from grand larceny in the first and second degrees to attempted grand larceny in the second degree. CNN reported that the people involved were “meticulously instructed on how to fail memory tests with plausibility, how to dress and how to behave.”
Some went on to hold other jobs under the table while collecting benefits, while others used the money to vacation. CNN described one recipient who jet-skied despite reportedly being disabled, one who actively rode motorcycles and another who taught martial arts classes.
Locate a Tulsa Disability Attorney
If the allegations against those who were indicted are true, it is very disturbing. Like other cases of disability fraud, it causes the public to believe that a significant percentage of disability cases are hoaxes. Individuals who attempt to cheat the SSDI system by receiving payments they do not qualify for should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. These types of schemes hurt people who have disabilities and truly need assistance.
We will continue to blog about this story, as updates are available.
Our firm is able to answer your questions about applying for SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, as well as help you throughout the process. Contact our Tulsa Social Security disability attorney today for help. We offer free evaluations of your case, and you can reach us by phone at (918) 265-1404.
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers