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Over 100 charged in massive SSDI fraud scheme

Millions of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, many of them right here in St. Louis. In many cases these afflictions keep them from enjoying the everyday aspects of life, such as working and supporting themselves. In such scenarios, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits available to help them while they’re away from work receiving treatment.

Unfortunately, certain cases of SSDI/SSI fraud and abuse have helped to contribute to the current strain on funds being felt by these programs. Some would also argue that this has caused the SSA to be overly cautious in their benefit qualification process, denying many legitimate claims for fear of those trying to game the system.

Recent stories make their fears seem well-founded. In what has been called the largest case of fraud ever perpetrated against the SSA, over 100 people in New York City, a majority of them former police officers and fire fighters, have been charged with bilking the government of over $400 million in SSDI/SSI benefits. In scheme that investigators believe began over 25 years ago, the defendants were coached on what to say during the SSA medical evaluation so as to appear that they were suffering from depression and other mental disorders. Some were even told to use the events of September 11 to support their claims of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who ran the scheme were given a portion of the first SSDI benefit checks that the defendants received.

While the SSA stands by its record of legitimate benefit qualification, stories such as seem to lend weight to the argument that the program’s qualification system needs to be reviewed. The SSA recently announced changes to be implemented over the coming years that should help to combat these cases of abuse. Those wondering how those changes could affect their benefits may wish to consult with a Social Security lawyer.

Source: The New York Times “Charges for 106 in Huge Fraud Over Disability” William K. Rashbaum and James c McKinley Jr., Jan. 07, 2014

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