It’s not often that the topic of Social Security disability benefits makes headlines across the nation, but this is exactly what happened earlier this week after news outlets began reporting on a rather unfortunate scenario playing out in New York City involving the alleged abuse of the disability system by retired emergency responders.
On Monday, officials with the Manhattan district attorney’s office unsealed an indictment charging 106 retired police officers and firefighters with grand larceny, claiming they fraudulently collected any average of $30,000 to $50,000 a year in disability benefits.
Shockingly, the indictment claims that the evidence gathered — Facebook photos, recorded phone calls, testimony from undercover officers — paints a clear picture of abuse of the Social Security disability system dating all the way back to 1988 involving upwards of 1,000 people and $400 million in losses.
Law enforcement officials believe that four people, all of whom were named in Monday’s indictment, were responsible for orchestrating the entire operation over the last 25 years. Specifically, they believe that in exchange for cash kickbacks from the first checks from the Social Security Administration, the four would work together to do everything for these applicants from helping them fill out fraudulent disability forms to coaching them on what to say in interviews in order to convince government psychiatrists.
The system seemed to work as many of the retired police officers and firefighters brought into court in handcuffs on Tuesday were able to secure disability benefits based on what they claimed were such debilitating conditions as anxiety, severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
These conditions, they told the psychiatrists, left them unable to leave the house or find a job. However, Facebook photos recovered by law enforcement officials show many of these them engaged in everything from fishing and motorcycling to working side jobs and practicing martial arts.
This story is unfortunate on a variety of levels. Aside from the potentially criminal nature of these actions, these accusations, whether true or not, only serve to reinforce the unfair and unfounded stereotype that disability claimants engage in fraudulent conduct. Quite frankly, those suffering from difficult and life-altering conditions deserve much better.
If you would like to learn more about securing much-needed SSD benefits, consider contacting an experienced and dedicated attorney who can help guide you through the complex process.
Source: The New York Times, “Charges for 106 in huge fraud over disability,” William Rashbaum and James McKinley, Jan. 7, 2013