Thieves Stealing Social Security Disability Benefits While Insolvency Looms

Thieves Stealing Social Security Disability Benefits While Insolvency Looms

With the help of his now deceased mother, Anthony George obtained a second Social Security Number under the fictitious name of Sonny Fisher in 1982. Using his fake identity, in 1993 he applied for disability benefits under the fictitious name, claiming he was profoundly disabled and totally unable to work. At subsequent medical interviews, his wife, pretending that she was a neighbor, verified that “Sonny Fisher” never worked and could not drive. She also claimed he had only $100 in his bank account. In fact, Anthony George bought and sold used cars, lived in a $430,000 home, and had more than $10,000 in his bank account.

The couple is now serving prison time and ordered to pay restitution. Their case highlights how a few unscrupulous crooks are robbing an estimated $1.8 billion a year from the Social Security program that pays benefits to the disabled. According to the most recent data from Social Security, the program provided about $9.8 billion in benefit payments to more than 10.5 million people across the country in 2011. But that could soon change without Congressional action. The Congressional Budget Office, and the Social Security Chief Actuary, recently forecast that the Social Security Disability Trust Fund will be insolvent during the government’s 2016 fiscal year which starts October 1, 2015. Currently the government is borrowing to redeem the assets held by the disability trust fund, which operates independently from the trust fund that pays Social Security retirement benefits. The assets are special bonds, non-marketable I.O.U.s. from the U.S. Treasury for revenues that were borrowed when the program was in surplus. When those bonds are depleted, the program will be insolvent.

According to the CBO, under current law when insolvent, Social Security may not pay benefits in excess of available balances in a trust fund, borrow money for a trust fund, or transfer money from one trust fund to another without legislation. Recently at a House Social Security Subcommittee Hearing, the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration stated that reviews to determine whether people are still eligible for Social Security disability benefits called continuing disability reviews (CDRs), are “effective in reducing overpayments in the DI program. SSA estimates that every $1 spent on medical CDRs yields at least $10 in Social Security program savings and Medicare and Medicaid.”

“TSCL believes the need to find savings from increased enforcement and continuing disability reviews couldn’t be greater,” says Chairman Larry Hyland. “This is one area in which federal spending would pay for itself in savings,” Hyland points out. “Congress needs to stop the thieves from stealing money intended for those it was legitimately intended for.”

Sources: “Two Sentenced To Prison In Long-Running Disability Fraud Scheme,” United States Attorney Jenny Durkan, Western District of Washington, January 6, 2012. Combined OASDI Trust Funds, March 2012 Baseline, Congressional Budget Office, March 13, 2012. Hearing on Combating Disability Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, Statement for the Record of the Honorable Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr. Inspector General, Social Security Administration, January 24, 2012.