Anthony Cummings, a fugitive on the run from a child rape indictment in Georgia, improperly collected thousands of dollars in Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) payments until the law finally caught up with him. The SSI program, which is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), will continue to pay fugitives at least $30 million annually unless state fugitive files can be used to prevent such payments, the agency`s Inspector General recently warned. Auditors estimate that fugitives have collected between $108 million and $400 million in SSI benefits over the past four years. The SSA hopes to negotiate agreements by July to obtain fugitive records from all states.
Laws prohibit Social Security officials from saying how much the agency paid Cummings who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for raping and molesting a 3-year-old girl. Based on the maximum levels in effect during the months he was at large, the 27-year-old Cummings could have received as much as $19,556.
In 1996 Congress passed legislation barring felony fugitives from receiving SSI benefits. A new computer program should end such payments while helping law enforcement officers to track down fugitives. Computers match law enforcement records against the data files of beneficiaries of SSI and other Social Security programs. When a match is found, SSI benefits can be terminated, and investigators can provide law enforcement officials with the fugitive`s most recent address where he or she has been receiving checks.
SSI is a federal program that provides monthly benefit payments to people age 65 or older, who are blind or have a disability and who have little or no income and resources. People who receive SSI are also eligible to receive food stamps and Medicaid.
Editor`s note: While felony fugitives are prohibited from receiving SSI payments, there is no such prohibition on benefits from Social Security`s main program, which pays retirement, survivors, and disability benefits. Auditors have asked Congress to bar fugitives from receiving payment from Social Security`s other programs as well. Congress is `studying` the recommendation.
Source: `Fugitives Get at Least $30 Million a Year in Social Security Checks,` David Pace, Associated Press, December 27, 2000.