Some Strings Attached

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26082954 - social security card, money and stock market numbers

The Social Security Administration (SSA) presents a sobering statistic about becoming disabled. Apparently, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds is expected to become disabled before reaching the age of 67. Thankfully, the SSA can help in the event an individual becomes unable to work by providing benefits to replace some of the lost income. (But, the SSA doesn’t just hand over the cash without some strings attached.) The SSA defines disability in a very strict manner and today’s fraudster from Cohoes, New York did not meet those requirements, yet she managed to scam the agency of disability benefits she did not deserve. She committed Social Security Disability fraud by lying about her employment status.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, an individual must not be able to work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted or is predicted to last at least one year, or result in death. And, the condition must prevent the person from working as they did in the past and must prevent them from working or adjusting to any other form of work presently or in the future. (Social Security disability beneficiaries are considered to be among the most severely impaired in the country.)

According to the SSA, for nearly six decades the agency has helped an increasing number of workers and families replace lost income, even though it only keeps the beneficiary at or slightly above the poverty line. (And, where there is a government program that provides money to qualified beneficiaries, you can be sure that there are fraudsters lined up to get a piece of the pie.) Today’s fraudster is one of those greedy people who thought they could get away with scamming the system intended to help people in need.

The New Yorker submitted false statements to the SSA, claiming that she had not worked over nine years. During that time, she actually worked for eight different employers, skipping to a new job about once every year. (I’m sure she was trying to keep the government from tracking her trail of deception.)

The 57-year-old Cohoes, New York woman pleaded guilty to Social Security Disability fraud for making false statements to the SSA. When sentenced, she will face up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and supervised release of up to three years.

 As this case shows, the SSA aggressively pursues those individuals who think they can commit fraud with no strings attached. Under their Cooperative Disability Investigations program, the agency investigates suspicious disability claims before benefits are awarded. Just in fiscal year 2012, the program saved nearly $340 million. (But, they can’t fight disability fraud alone, it has to be a team effort. If you see something, say something.) To prevent Social Security Disability fraud from occurring, contact the Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or click on “Report Fraud, Waste, or Abuse” here.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a release from the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General entitled, “New York Woman Pleads Guilty to Social Security Disability Fraud,” released on October 19, 2017.

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Donna M. Smith, age 57, of Cohoes, New York, pled guilty today to making false statements to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in order to fraudulently obtain Disability Insurance Benefits.

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and John F. Grasso, Special Agent in Charge of the SSA Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Office.

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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.