Many Americans rely on their Social Security Disability benefits to provide them with the necessary funds to survive. Elderly or disabled recipients of these benefits may be targeted by criminals for theft.
Caregivers, nurses or family members who intend to collect another person’s social security benefits on their behalf will now be carefully evaluated for any past criminal offenses. While law enforcement has access to the FBI’s national criminal database, Social Security Administration employees will need to use alternative methods to collect this essential information, including third-party databases and public records. SSA employees will look for the following offenses during their research: false imprisonment, fraud, abuse, neglect, identity theft, theft of property or funds, kidnapping, human trafficking, rape, robbery, forgery and first-degree homicide.
The program was originally piloted in Philadelphia in June of 2012 after a case made headlines involving the false imprisonment of four mentally disabled victims. A woman and four others were collecting the victims’ Social Security Disability benefits while keeping them in a basement. Upon further investigation, it was revealed the woman had previously served a prison sentence for starving a man to death.
Social Security agents have reported the pilot program as a success and have expanded it nationally. The numbers of found criminals remain low. They have found 1 percent of applicants with prior records. This translates to approximately 285 applicants of the 34,850 that came in during that time.
Crimes against disabled and elderly citizens can be hard to comprehend. When applying for or organizing Social Security Disability benefits for these people, it may be extremely helpful to have the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney.
Source: philly.com, “Social Security expands background checks,” Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, Mar. 3, 2014