The second arrest in as many months in an ongoing investigation into alleged Social Security Disability Insurance fraud netted 28 more people yesterday. The Manhattan District Attorney charged the accused– mainly retired New York City police officers and firefighters– with grand larceny and attempted grand larceny.
In early January, more than 100 people were arrested on similar charges, again mostly New York City law enforcement. Authorities said the scheme could date back 26 years and involve up to 1,000 fraudulent schemes. Read more.
The federal government may have paid $1.29 billion in Social Security disability benefits to thousands of people who made too much income to actually qualify, according to a U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) report obtained by NBC News.
The GAO report, which will be released Sunday, said its estimate of “potentially improper” payments may be understated. Social Security Administration officials said they plan to investigate the claims and recoup any improper payments. Read more.
The Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2016. If Congress does not act on Social Security reform, it would translate into a 20 percent cut in benefits to 9 million disabled people plus another 2 million dependents, according to Reuters columnist Mark Miller.
To shore up the SSDI, Congress could reallocate a portion of payroll tax revenues from the Social Security retirement program. However, the disability program has been the topic of heated debate in Washington, with many accusing the SSDI of falling victim to fraud and out-of-work baby boomers taking advantage of the system. Read more.
NPR’s series on disability continues with this story from March 26 heard on All Things Considered. Chana Joffe-Walt explores the seemingly ever-changing and widening definition of disability to include things like depression that, in her words, “can be severe, but things that are often very hard to test for”. Much of the focus in this story centers on the work of disability lawyers and how they have helped create what Jaffe-Walt calls the “disability-industrial complex.”
On Friday, March 22, NPR and Planet Money started a one-week series of stories on the growing number of people with disablities and therefore are unable to work. You can find a link to the main story above along with the first installment of a radio piece by Chana Joffe-Walt as heard on All Things Considered here.
Joffe-Walt helps explain the potential reasons why an increasing number people are considered by the government to be too disabled to work, both through statistics and various charts, as well as through the stories of people she met throughout the country while reporting.
A primary question in the first radio story was: why, with the labor market becoming increasingly technology-based – and thus, less physically demanding overall – are there still so many people being added to “the 14 million Americans who are invisible to the economy?”
Bank of America has settled a lawsuit brought by customers with disabilities who were seeking loans on home mortgages between May 2007 and April 2012, The Washington Post reported Friday.
The customers who filed the lawsuit would not have been required to pay higher interest rates on mortgage loans or face any other increased financial burden beyond that of non-disabled applicants. Rather, the plaintiffs claimed that they were asked to provide documentation regarding Social Security income not required of other applicants, the story states. As the article details, Bank of America has faced similar allegations of discriminatory loan practices in the past. In this case, however, the bank says they were not breaking federal law and that the settlement decision was made only to mitigate litigation expenses, according to the article.
Sen. Tom Coburn wants a meeting with the top Social Security Administration investigator to discuss the increase in people receiving disability payments, saying he’s concerned that some may be using the program as “an extension of unemployment benefits.”
GOOD INTENTIONS have gone awry in the federal program that gives cash benefits to families of disabled children, and a comprehensive assessment of the program’s weaknesses is the first step toward fixing it. Given the strong possibility that children are being misclassified as disabled to make their families eligible for checks of up to $700 a month, Congress should happily pay the $10 million or so needed to fund a study of the program by the well-regarded Institute of Medicine. And then it should quickly implement any changes based on the institute’s findings before more children are misclassified.
Economic policy reporter Damian Paletta had a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal last week that quickly stirred outrage and prompted investigations. He reported on a Huntington, W.Va., judge who has approved Social Security disability benefits in 100 percent of the 729 cases appealed to him in the first six months of fiscal 2011. In the previous fiscal year, he decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four.