In the United States, Social Security is a social insurance program which is funded by payroll taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). At times, the initiative is also referred to as the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), or the Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI).
At present, it is the largest social insurance program in the United States, wherein 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the GDP is utilized to keep around 40 percent of the population, who have crossed 65 years of age, out of poverty.
Social Security Disability Programs
The federal government provides Social Security disability benefits to disabled individuals who fulfill the criteria specified by the administration.
The two programs constituted to execute this social insurance program are the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits program (SSDI), wherein the benefits are provided to disabled workers or their dependents, and the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), wherein the beneficiaries are disabled individuals whose income is below a specified level.
The federal Social Security Disability Act defines 'disability' as the 'inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physician or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a period of not less than 12 months or results in death.'
The list of disabilities for which a person can avail these benefits are enlisted in the SSDI conditions. The application to avail these benefits should be backed by educational background, work experience certificate, and most important of all, medical proof of disability.
In most of the cases of fraud, individuals forge documents to avail these insurance benefits through false claims despite being physically and mentally sound.
Claiming amount in excess of what the individual is actually entitled to get, or claiming money for minor disabilities not enlisted in the SSDI conditions also amounts to disability fraud. Claiming benefits after the work strength of the individual has expired is also considered a fraud.
What is the Penalty for Such Fraud?
Previously there were some lapses in the law, which made it easier for people to use such unlawful means to avail benefits meant for a particular section of the society. Amendments in the legal framework by the Social Security Administration has brought down the number of such deceits.
Criminal convictions in such frauds can either earn imprisonment or a large sum of money as a fine, while civil penalties may require the individual to pay a substantial amount of money as a fine, or recommendation of revoking or suspending the professional license of the individual.
A few of the existing fraudulent cases are a result of the concerned officials turning a blind eye towards the legalities constituted to make the process transparent.
How to Report Such Frauds?
Before reporting a fraud, check whether the person whom you doubt is really eligible to avail the benefits or not. Crosscheck whether the person is really suffering from some impairment, or faking them to avail these benefits. Not all disabilities are visible to our eyes, so you need to be careful before you report someone to the administration.
Once you are sure that a particular individual is faking, you can call the Social Security Administration toll-free hotline and tell them that the particular individual has used fraud means to avail the benefits of a scheme to which he is not legally entitled.
Ideally, you should provide as much information as possible, so that it becomes easier for them to book the culprit. If you don't want to reveal your identity, you can write to the Social Security Administration Department at P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, Maryland 21235.
By reporting disability frauds you will help the authorities to end this illegal activity. Remember that these fraudsters feed on the tax we pay, therefore it's important for us to work together to bring an end to this menace. For every fraud who is availing these benefits illegally, the right of one genuinely disabled person is either denied or delayed.