Readers of our blog know that there are certain social stigmas that are carried by people who take government assistance. Whether it’s Food Stamps or Social Security Disability, whether you need it mean little to the general population who often view these people as being leeches on the system or even faking it altogether.
While there is no doubt that fraudulent claims exist, to assume that a majority of the people on programs such as SSD and SSI are cheating the system is quite ridiculous. That would mean that millions of people have somehow circumvented the Social Security Administrations strict requirements in order to receive a meager compensation check. But this may be what one recent article was suggesting when it brought up the topic of SSI this month.
The article seems to suggest that the U.S. Government Accountability Office launched an investigation into the possibility that some people were not only defrauding the system but that there were multiple instances of SSI overpayments which resulted in millions of dollars in losses to the disability trust fund. While mostly true–the agency did launch and investigation into the possible reasons for overpayments–the article seems to focus on fraudulent claims rather than the other reasons for these overpayments.
As some of our readers here in Illinois know, many of these over-payment errors can occur because of paperwork errors on behalf of the Social Security Administration. We’ve also seen instances in the past where conflicting requirements and miscommunications have even led to benefits being denied or cancelled.
The article also seems to suggest that if a person receiving SSI benefits is above the poverty line then they must be cheating the system somehow. This simply isn’t the case. While the SSA has strict requirements for how much income a person can make in order to still receive benefits, there may be other factors at work here. A person could be drawing from a Special Needs Trust which, depending on how it’s set up, may allow a person to continue receiving benefits. A person could also be receiving additional assistance from nonprofit organizations that could be supplementing costs of living such as housing and food expenses.
While cases of fraud may occur, passing this stigma onto the majority of beneficiaries only hurts those honest people who need the benefits the most.
Source: The Foundry, “$150,000 in the Bank and Drawing Income from Social Security’s SSI,” Romina Boccia and Danny Huizinga, July 5, 2013