It is a law coming too late for many victims of disability benefits fraud, but a Pennsylvania Senator is putting forth legislation that would have prevented the Philadelphia human trafficking case that came to light in October. In that case, Linda Weston – leader of the group consisting of her and three others – had been taking advantage of a group of mentally disabled adults in order to collect their disability benefits.
Weston collected the benefits on behalf of her victims by serving as a representative payee, which is what the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) calls the person receiving benefits on behalf of another. An alternate payee is another phrase used to describe this arrangement. In order to become a payee, a person or organization has to apply and the SSA must approve the application.
Weston should not have been allowed to serve as a representative payee. She had a conviction in the 1980s for homicide. The bill pending in Congress will grant the SSA access to government databases to run cross checks on those applying to serve as a representative payee. It also increases the number of SSA fraud investigators who can make sure that representative payees are legitimate.
Despite the horrible situation that occurred in Philadelphia, the representative payee system does meet important needs. Minor children and adults deemed legally incompetent need to have representative payees in order to receive benefits. Many family members and health organizations use this method to provide for their loved ones or patients. Have you served as a representative payee? What steps did you have to go through in order to become one?
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys