All or Nothing

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) is pretty clear about who can and cannot receive financial assistance from the government for a disability. (The SSA defines ”disability” in this publication and states that the agency only pays for total disability.) An article posted on WKYC.com follows the story of a man who tried to scam the government by claiming total disability; however, in reality he was self-employed as a home repair contractor.

Social Security benefits are different from other benefit programs in that the agency will not pay for partial or short-term disability, only full disability. According to the story, the fraudster in this case stole more than $75,000 by lying to agency officials about being completely disabled while performing physical labor. (According to the SSA, a person is eligible for disability benefits if they are unable to do work they previously performed; cannot complete job duties due their medical condition; and, the disability is expected to last for at least one year or could result in death.)

Court documents show that the scam, which was intended to defraud both federal and state agencies out of approximately $350,000, occurred over 11 years. (In addition to stealing from the SSA, court documents allege that he also applied for and received nearly $270,000 from the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation.) The story states that the fraudster intentionally failed to disclose that he was self-employed because he knew it would disqualify him from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

The 53-year-old man pleaded guilty to 11 counts, including theft of government funds, wire fraud and fraudulently securing Social Security benefits. As a result, he was given a 30-month prison sentence.

This man did not adhere to the ”all or nothing” requirements for receiving disability benefits. (Either the beneficiary is deemed completely disabled, or they get nothing.) He was definitely not completely disabled and because he engaged in what the SSA terms substantial gainful activity (SGA), he automatically disqualified himself from receiving benefits from the program. Because of his dishonesty, he will no longer receive any disability benefits and will have to serve time to pay for his crime. (He was all ”in” for defrauding the government, but now he is left with nothing as a result.)

 

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Man Sentenced to Prison for Fraud with Disability Claims,” posted on WKYC.com on August 10, 2015.

AKRON, Ohio — An Akron man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for defrauding federal and state agencies out of nearly $350,000 by claiming he was disabled while actually working as a home-repair contractor, said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach.

James Van Buskirk, 53, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 11 counts, including theft of government funds, wire fraud, and fraudulently securing Social Security benefits.

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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.