Published on: October 23, 2023
Every year, millions of Americans receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. These benefits often provide essential financial support for those who are unable to work as a result of a disability. The good news is that most people who receive these benefits do so lawfully. The majority of recipients need and deserve the benefits they receive – but some don’t.
Those who consider attempting to misuse their benefits or obtain them fraudulently should know that the Social Security Administration takes the issue of misuse very seriously. In fact, the Social Security Administration has what is known as a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. As a result, it is important to understand exactly what fraud is and the penalties that may be imposed for fraudulent behavior.
What Is Fraud?
What is fraud? Essentially, fraud is obtaining benefits you would not otherwise be entitled to receive without the fraudulent behavior. Fraud can happen in many ways – and when it does, the penalties are often stiff.
Common ways in which fraud is committed include:
- Providing misleading information regarding your income and resources when completing an application for benefits. Some individuals may intentionally overreport their salaries, or underestimate their assets for the purpose of receiving a higher benefit amount each month.
- Returning to work or otherwise earning income above the substantial gainful activity limit and withholding that information from the Social Security Administration.
- Falsifying medical records or withholding known information about a medical condition when seeking benefits.
- Filing a claim for benefits using another person’s Social Security number.
- Refusal to notify the Social Security Administration regarding an improvement in your medical condition which might change your eligibility for benefits.
- Concealing a the death of a recipient from the Social Security Administration.
Fraud can be committed in these ways, and in a number of other ways as well. Generally, the Social Security Administration learns of fraud either through red flags that it identifies, or through reports made by other sources.
How Is Fraud Reported and Investigated?
Without question, fraud is taken very seriously by the Social Security Administration. Often, people report suspected fraud to the Social Security Administration by providing information online or calling the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Reports may be filed confidentially and anonymously.
If fraud is reported or suspected, the Social Security Administration will typically send a "cooperative disability investigator," who is an officer trained by the FBI, to investigate suspected disability benefits fraud. These investigations can often be extensive and time-consuming. If the Social Security Administration ultimately discovers and confirms the fraudulent behavior, there could be swift and significant penalties for those responsible.
What Are The Penalties For Fraud?
As noted, the Social Security Administration has what is known as a “zero tolerance” policy concerning fraud. If it is discovered, it will be prosecuted. In order to try and prevent fraud, the Social Security Administration works closely with the Office of the Inspector General to investigate fraud and prosecute those who perpetrate it.
Depending upon the particular situation, different remedies and penalties may be imposed.
- Repayment: Those who receive benefits as a result of false statements, misrepresentations, or withholding vital information may be required to repay those benefits. If they cannot repay the benefits immediately, future benefits may be reduced until the overpayment is reconciled.
- Criminal Penalties: Because some disability benefits are jointly funded and administered by the federal government and the individual states, those who commit benefits fraud may be subject to both state and federal criminal penalties. Ultimately, fraud may be punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Even if criminal penalties are not pursued, civil fines may still be imposed, depending on the situation involved.
Without question, fraud is a serious issue – but it’s only one of many issues that those who are seeking or receiving disability may encounter. Like any legal matter, these issues can be complex, and you won’t want to face them alone. The good news is, you don’t have to. At Disability Experts, we’re here for you.
Call Disability Experts Today
At Disability Experts, we understand every aspect of the law pertaining to disability benefits. We also understand that many of our clients depend upon those benefits as an essential part of their financial support system. That’s why we’ll pursue the best legal strategies on your behalf as you fight for the benefits you need and deserve. We’ll meet you wherever you are in the process, and walk beside you each step of the way.
If you need the help of a team of talented, experienced, and knowledgeable attorneys, look no further. We’re here for you, and we’re ready to help. Give us a call today. We look forward to speaking with you soon.