Not a Peep

20231116 - paper check from the united states treasury

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that nearly 62 million Americans will receive approximately $955 billion in benefits in 2017, either because of retirement, a disability or as a survivor. When a person, who is receiving SSA benefits dies, family members or caregivers are required to report the death. Today’s article focuses on a Baton Rouge, Louisiana woman who committed Social Security fraud by not notifying the agency of her mother’s death.

When people who receive Social Security benefits are unable to manage their own financial affairs, SSA typically appoints a relative, friend, other person or organization to handle their Social Security matters. In today’s case, the daughter of the woman receiving Social Security benefits was the “representative payee.” (Her job was to assess and oversee her mother’s needs and make sure the government benefits were used in the mother’s best interest and only for her needs.)

Some of the essential needs that the daughter was responsible for included food, clothing, shelter, utilities, medical care and insurance, dental care, personal hygiene, education and rehabilitation expenses. If any funds were left over once the mother’s immediate needs were met, the daughter was supposed to invest the remaining funds in a trust for her mother. (What a “representative payee” is not supposed to do is use the beneficiary’s funds for their own use or keep receiving the benefits after the person they are caring for dies.)

The daughter in today’s case was authorized to receive a monthly “Retirement Survivor Insurance” benefit payment on behalf of her mother and cared for her over 11 years until her death. She didn’t utter a peep to the SSA about her mother’s death and consequently collected $49,863 in benefits over the next 15 years. (The payments ranged from $244 to $296 per month.) The 66-year-old Louisiana woman pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and faces a prison term of up to 10 years as well as restitution.

If you know of any representative payee that has somehow misused the benefits issued for the Social Security beneficiary, please contact the OIG Fraud Hotline. It’s important for you to sound the alarm to keep fraudsters, who don’t utter a peep about their criminal acts, from stealing your future benefits.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release entitled, Louisiana Woman Pleads Guilty to $50,000 Deceased Payee Fraud,” released by the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration on August 31, 2017.

BATON ROUGE, LA – Acting United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson announced today that DORIS S. PITCHER, age 66, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. As a result of her conviction, PITCHER faces a potential prison term of up to ten years as well as restitution.

PITCHER’s mother received monthly Retirement Survivor Insurance (“RSI”) benefit payments from the United States Social Security Administration (“SSA”). In approximately 1989, PITCHER became the authorized payee of these benefit payments on behalf of her mother. As the authorized payee, PITCHER was supposed to use the funds to assist in paying for her mother’s food, housing, clothing, medical expenses, personal items, and other expenses. Another of PITCHER’s responsibilities was to inform SSA when her mother died so that they could terminate the benefit payments.

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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.