Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), helps disabled Americans meet their basic financial needs. As you might expect there are many requirements that must be met in order to receive SSI benefits, one of which is living arrangements. An Effingham, New Hampshire SSI beneficiary changed her living arrangements, but neglected to notify the SSA. Now she’s in trouble for committing Social Security disability fraud.
According to court documents, the woman at the center of today’s fraud article received SSI benefits for more than 16 years prior to getting married. After tying the knot, the woman continued to receive her monthly allotment of SSI income. (Marriage can be a gamechanger for SSI qualification.)
There are certain living arrangements where SSI beneficiaries can continue to receive their full SSI payment. (For example, if a beneficiary lives alone or with a spouse and pays all of the living expenses, then the checks keep coming in.) If you live in someone else’s home and pay less than your fair share or, you live in your own home, but someone else pays for all or a significant part of the living expenses, then you are disqualified. (That’s what happened to the woman from Effingham.)
While today’s fraudster changed her last name to her husband’s and lived with her spouse as a married couple, she did not report the marriage or her shared living arrangements to the SSA. When approached by investigators, the woman claimed to be single. She eventually admitted that she did not obtain a marriage license nor report her marriage to SSA because she knew she could lose her disability benefits. (Easy come. Easy go.)
Today’s fraudster knew that the incomes of all household members are considered when the SSA is trying to determine eligibility for SSI benefits, yet she lied anyway. That’s why the 59-year-old Effingham woman was convicted of Social Security disability fraud. She was sentenced to five years of probation for making false statements to obtain more than $37,000 in disability benefits. (Now she is required to pay full restitution of $37,879.)
This case sends a strong message to other potential fraudsters that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by the SSA. If anyone receiving SSI fails to accurately report their living arrangements, then they need to prepare to be forced into a different living arrangement where they would not be happy. (I’m talking about a six feet by eight feet jail cell with gray walls, a lumpy mattress and iron bars that can be very drafty.)
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release entitled, “Effingham Woman Sentenced to Five Years of Probation for Making False Statements to Obtain Social Security Benefits,” released on February 14, 2019.
CONCORD – Valerie Rondeau, 59, of Effingham was sentenced to five years of probation for making false statements to obtain Social Security disability benefits, United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced today.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Rondeau received Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits for over 16 years prior to her marriage in May 2013. Rondeau continued to receive these benefits after she wed, but Rondeau did not report her marriage or her shared living arrangement to the Social Security Administration. Instead, Rondeau took active steps to conceal her marriage and living arrangement. For example, Rondeau changed her last name to that of her husband, writing in the petition “we live as a married couple.” But, when Social Security inquired about the name change, Rondeau advised Social Security that she was not married and does not present herself as married. Rondeau continued to conceal her marriage and living arrangement until November 2017, when she admitted to investigators that she did not obtain a marriage license or report her marriage to Social Security because she knew she could lose her disability benefits.