Part of the Solution

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46990910 - photo of disabled old person with walking aid

For more than 60 years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has provided cash benefits to people with disabilities. Everything you’d ever want to know about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program can be found here, including the fact that at the end of December 2016, there were 706,448 disabled workers who accounted for 88 percent of awards to all disabled beneficiaries. (Payments to this segment totaled $9.94 billion.) Today’s fraudster is a Danville, Virginia man, who took advantage of the government benefits program and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and committed Social Security Income Fraud by stealing more than $230,000 in benefits he was not entitled to receive.

To give you a brief history lesson on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, prior to 1995, HHS had oversight of the SSA, including the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs. (The two programs are currently managed directly by SSA, which is now independent of HHS.) Today, many of the beneficiaries who receive benefits from the two programs are enrolled in HHS healthcare programs, such as Medicaid or Medicare. (There’s the connection to HHS. Apparently, our fraudster had been stealing from the $150 billion Disability Insurance Program trust fund for some time, seeing that the average monthly payout in 2016 was $1,171.15.)

In a plea agreement, the 46-year-old Virginia man pleaded guilty to Social Security Income Fraud after it was discovered he was earning a paycheck by working a full-time job, while also receiving a disability check from the government. (He neglected to inform SSA and HHS that he was gainfully employed.) He agreed to pay $234,134 in restitution to the SSA and HHS. The fraudster is facing a maximum term of up to 10 years in prison.

To ensure that only eligible individuals receive disability benefits, SSA created the Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) program to cut down on fraud, waste and abuse throughout the SSA’s federal disability programs. Since the program was established in 1998 until September 2017, the organization reports that $3.7 billion in projected savings to SSA’s disability programs plus $2.7 billion in projected savings to non-SSA programs has been realized.

Although the SSA is making gains in identifying people who should not be receiving government benefits, you as a taxpayer also have a vested interest in preventing dollars allocated for vulnerable citizens from being stolen. If you suspect that someone is committing fraud, waste or abuse against Social Security, you can contact the SSA’s Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline here. To stop future fraudsters from being a part of the problem, your proactive efforts can be part of the solution.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General press release entitled, Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to $234,000 Government Theft,” released on August 18, 2017.

Danville, VIRGINIA – A Patrick County, Virginia man, who stole more than $230,000 from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services in disability benefits to which he was not entitled, pleaded guilty yesterday in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Danville, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.

Mark S. Huffman, 46, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty yesterday to a one-count Information charging him with theft of government monies. As part of his plea agreement, Huffman agreed to pay restitution for $234,134 to the Social Security Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, the defendant faces a maximum term of incarceration of up to 10 years.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.