The federal government recently arrested 75 people in Puerto Rico on charges of receiving millions of dollars in fraudulent Social Security Disability (SSD) claims. Discovering the fraud may help the government crack down on those who abuse the system so that those who need it most are able to receive these important benefits.

Bilking The SSD System

According to a recent article in the Washington Times, federal authorities at the Social Security Administration (SSA) became suspicious about the number of SSD filings coming from Puerto Rico and set up a sting operation to crack down on the fraud ring.

The fraudulent activity involved a former Social Security employee who charged up to $6,000 to write bogus applications and doctors on the island who were charging up to $500 to write medical diagnoses saying applicants were too “psychiatrically impaired” to work.

Federal authorities will collect $1.7 million in forfeited money and other valuables from the former Social Security employee, $2.1 million in forfeitures from other claimants and will review approximately 6,600 disability applications where the medical diagnosis came from one of the doctors charged with fraud in this case. If the beneficiaries are deemed to have been ineligible, they will be required to repay the government.

It’s a shame that some people engage in this type of illegal activity, when there are so many people with legitimate disabilities that need the benefits to which they’re entitled.

The Importance Of SSD Benefits

The SSA offers two different disability benefits programs for people who are disabled by a medical condition or impairment, 1) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and 2) Social Security Income (SSI). While both provide benefits to the disabled, the former is an earned benefit and the latter is a needs-based benefit:

  • SSDI. SSDI benefits are based on the work credits you receive from Social Security taxes paid into “the system.” If you become disabled, your benefits will vary depending upon how much you made during your career. You will also become eligible for Medicare coverage after 24 months of being on SSDI.
  • SSI. SSI benefits require applicants to have a limited income and less than $2,000 of individual resources and $3,000 of family resources. As of 2013, the maximum monthly benefit through SSI is $710 for an individual and $1,066 for a disabled couple who both qualify for benefits. These amounts are subject to periodic cost of living adjustments (COLA), and those eligible may also be enrolled in Medicaid for medical coverage.

It goes without saying that your bills and expenses don’t go away when you’ve become disabled. You’ll simply have a harder time paying them and making ends meet. You want to take care of yourself and your family – and these benefits can, and should, be there to help you.

Unfortunately, nearly half of all legitimate Social Security disability benefit claims are denied due to stringent qualifying standards, narrow definitions of disability and a claims process that can be confusing and frustrating. That’s where having an experienced Social Security disability attorney on your side can help. According to Greg Bubalo, Managing Partner and Head Attorney at the Becker Law Office:

“The sad reality is that few legitimate claims for disability benefits are initially approved. Too many people simply give up in order to avoid dealing with the red tape required by the government. An experienced attorney can cut through that red tape and help convince the government that your claim is valid.”

If you need help filing for SSDI or SSI benefits, or if your application has been denied, contact an attorney who understands how the process works so that you can increase your chances of obtaining the benefits you and your family deserve.