If you're genuinely disabled and receiving Social Security, should you worry about being investigated for disability fraud? Unfortunately, yes, you should. Here's what you should know.
Social Security Fraud Has Become a Sensitive Issue
Several high-profile fraud cases in recent years have put Social Security disability fraud in the public's mind. A high-profile disability attorney in Kentucky is accused of conspiring with one of Social Security's own administrative law judges to approve fraudulent claims. A total of 130 former New York firefighters and policemen were indicted after faking disabilities to collect benefits. A doctor in Puerto Rico took payments from people to falsify their medical histories so that they could qualify for disability benefits.
Cases like these have made it difficult for people suffering real disabilities to go about their lives without worrying that they're going to fall under suspicion of fraud. Despite the SSA's own estimation that less than 1% of benefits are paid out to fraudulent claims, disability recipients are under fire these days. Innocent people are getting caught up in fraud investigations.
Anybody Can Report You On Suspicion of Fraud
The Social Security Administration works with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate fraud. Newly established "Cooperative Disability Investigations" (CDI) programs have been gradually established in 24 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The goal is to investigate allegations of disability fraud.
The problem with the program, however, is that literally anyone can accuse anyone else of disability fraud. They can do so entirely anonymously. They can also do so on the record, but request that their name be withheld from the disabled individual "to avoid problems," which gives the disabled individual no ability to clue an investigator in on someone's potential motivation for making the report.
Do you have an ongoing feud with a relative that knows that you receive disability? Is your soon-to-be-ex-spouse fighting you for custody of your children? An anonymous report to OIG about how you are "faking" your disability claim would be enough to significantly disrupt your life and cause you extensive problems.
You Can Take Steps to Protect Yourself in an Investigation
Keep in mind that you can be under investigation without any formal notice. Typically, investigators use a ruse to gain entrance to your home, engage you in conversation, and then document their "interview" with you. They often pretend to be there to investigate an identity theft problem, which panics a lot of people into opening their doors and letting the investigators right in!
At that point, everything you do is suspect, and things that seem innocent enough to you could be held against you. Your ability to hold a conversation could be considered evidence that you don't suffer from any sort of psychological disorder. The cleanliness of your home could be used as proof that you're able to manage a household. Your ability to move around your home or offer investigators coffee could be seen as proof that you don't suffer debilitating pain.
This makes it particularly important to be conscious of the fact that you could be under investigation if you are approached by federal investigators, under any pretense. Should this happen, the best thing to do is to keep the investigators outside your door, which gives them less to document.
Also, for as long as you receive your benefits, you should take certain steps to protect yourself:
maintain regular appointments with your doctor to demonstrate that your condition is ongoing
follow your doctor's recommendations to show that you are doing your best to improve your condition
report any changes in your marital status, living situation, or work activity, and record the date and time of your report
If you have any reason to suspect that you are under investigation for disability fraud, contact an attorney such as Todd East Attorney at Law immediately. An attorney can help intercede with OIG and determine the best way to establish your innocence.