Self-Reporting Check May Have Prevented Philadelphia Tragedy

Self-reporting may come under increasing scrutiny, as it appears to be behind many of the ills troubling the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Many of the people who illegally receive disability benefits do so after reporting to the SSA that their disability is ongoing. Self-reporting problems also appear to be a red flag that the SSA missed in the horrific case out of Philadelphia from a few weeks ago, where several people are facing charges relating to human trafficking and the theft of disability benefits.

Police have now arrested four people in connection with the crimes that centered on Social Security disability fraud. The four had been keeping a group of mentally disabled adults locked in a basement while collecting their Social Security checks. Additionally, authorities have placed eight children in protective custody that the four suspects also had under their control.

It looks like authorities and the SSA may have missed a couple warning signs. First, there is a 2004 law that prohibits people who have been in prison longer than a year from receiving disability benefits on behalf of another person. It is up to the person submitting the application to answer this question truthfully, however. The alleged ringleader of these crimes – Linda Ann Weston – evidently did not do so.

One of the victims in this case was reported missing back in December in 2008 from his Norfolk, Virginia residence. The man’s mental health case worker reported him missing and the police made a report, but nothing ever turned up. The same case worker knew that the man’s disability checks were going to an address in Philadelphia. Philadelphia police visited the address, but a woman living there said no one by that name lived there.

Do you have any experience with the disability benefits application process, whether applying for the first time or for continuing to receive benefits? Were there certain self-reporting questions that you felt that the SSA should do a better job of following up on?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers

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