One area that both sides of the political aisle agree needs work on is investigations of Social Security fraud. Investigations are often insufficient or lacking altogether given the limited resources that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) and state offices have, but the benefits of improved investigations should outweigh the costs.
Newspapers routinely report stories of Social Security fraud where the non-disabled receive benefits or where someone took advantage of a disabled or retired person to steal his or her benefits. Catching these crimes towards their start is far less costly than waiting until thousands of dollars in benefits are missing and hours of legal fees and investigative work are necessary to get to the bottom of the crime. In many instances, the criminals are never able to repay the stolen benefits to the SSA.
The benefits theft and human trafficking case out of Philadelphia has brought some of the investigative problems of Social Security benefits to light. The ringleader in the case, as we have reported on in the past, should not have been receiving benefits on behalf of her victims in the first place, as she is a convicted felon. Additionally, investigations of the case showed that state workers in Virginia missed chances to follow up on one of the victims that would have uncovered the crime.
In Vermont, several groups representing the elderly and disabled sued the state last week for its inability to investigate allegations concerning the elderly and the disabled. The suit alleges that the state has waited for months before investigating accusations of abuse and theft and that investigators in the state have a caseload twice the national average. The groups mention specific instances in their lawsuit of the criminal activity going on. Instances where relatives have stolen Social Security benefits from the most vulnerable or where caregivers have left their patients in squalid conditions.
Both state and federal agencies need to improve their efforts in investigating disability benefits fraud. Have you suspected someone or some organization of taking advantage of your loved one? What action did you take to follow up?
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys