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Reacting to the massive SSD fraud case in constructive ways

Last week, we noted that a massive scandal is rocking the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the allegations against them are true, up to 1,000 individuals may have defrauded the SSA out of roughly $400 million dollars in Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Essentially, the accused individuals either applied for benefits in fraudulent ways or facilitated fraudulent applications by knowingly acting in fraudulent ways in their capacities as attorneys, mental health evaluators and physicians.

Unfortunately, the scheme allegedly involves a host of former New York City firefighters and police officers, many of whom used the tragedy of 9/11 to support potentially fraudulent elements of their claims. We noted in our last post that some of these individuals may indeed have suffered 9/11-related trauma. However, by filing their claims fraudulently these individuals have undermined any legitimate elements of their cases.

This scandal has deeply affected Americans on a personal and practical level. Personally, it is heart-wrenching to learn that individuals tied to heroic efforts on 9/11 may have stooped to defraud a system that works to help disabled people. Practically, it is frustrating to learn that the system can be so easily defrauded, especially when so many legitimate applicants have to jump through hoops to obtain the benefits they deserve.

Because this case has significantly shaken both the SSA and the general public, it should be used as a source of inspiration to better the system. Currently, elements of the SSD process lack transparency and are unreasonably difficult for legitimate claimants to navigate. In addition, judges should be granted access to a wider variety of personal information and evidence such as social media accounts in order to root out actual fraudsters. This scandal does not have to result in only negative consequences. By reacting to it constructively, the SSA can use it as a catalyst for positive change.

Source: New York Times, “Fixing Disability Courts,” D. Randall Frye, Jan. 19, 2014 

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