According to the Wall Street Journal, the Social Security Administration’s inspector general is sending a team of investigators to Puerto Rico to scrutinize Social Security Disability Insurance claims over suspected fraud. A recent news article showed that Puerto Rico had an uneven way of awarding disability benefits, especially when compared to other states in the U.S.
According to reports, Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is one of the easiest places to receive approval for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. In 2010, 63% of applicants won approval, which is four percentage points higher than other states such as New Jersey and Wyoming.
SSDI recipients living in 00725 zip code have the largest mailing list of payments than any other state. In fact, nine of the top US zip codes for beneficiaries belong to Puerto Rico.
The assistant inspector general said that the agency was already investigating several major suspected fraud investigations but the new team will support agents on the ground.
The SSDI program has become one of the largest federal entitlement plans, paying $124 billion of benefits in 2010. The number of SSDI beneficiaries jumped to 10.2 million in 2010, from 6.6 million in 2000.
The program is under scrutiny for its long-term inability to sustain a rapid growth of applicants. SSDI applicants must go through a lengthy process to be approved for benefits. The administration tries to enforce consistency on who qualifies, but there can be different interpretations on who meets the disability standard. The inspector general is SSA’s watchdog and takes a lead role in law-enforcement cases.