The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are vital lifelines for millions of disabled individuals in the United States. These programs provide financial support and stability for those unable to work because of disabilities. However, for people who misuse these benefits, there are severe consequences under the zero-tolerance policy of the Social Security Administration.
What follows is an explanation of the programs, the benefits available, and the penalties associated with misusing disability benefits. Use what you learn to comply with federal laws and regulations to retain the benefits you need and depend upon.
Understanding Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
Each of the disability programs, SSI and SSDI, have eligibility criteria you must meet to qualify for benefits and remain eligible to receive them. To qualify for SSDI, you need a history of working at jobs or through self-employment for a long enough duration to meet the eligibility requirements. The work record must also show that you paid Social Security taxes on your income.
If you meet the work requirement to be eligible for benefits through SSDI, the SSA reviews your medical records and other evidence submitted by your disability benefits lawyer to prove you have a qualifying disability. The medical evidence must prove that you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. The impairment or combination of impairments must prevent you from engaging in substantial activities usually associated with work, including lifting heavy objects, sitting, standing, and climbing stairs.
The SSI program does not require a work history to qualify for benefits. Its purpose is to provide monthly benefit payments for food, shelter, and other necessities needed by people with disabilities and limited income and resources. The disability standards for adults applying for SSI are similar to what someone applying for SSDI must meet. Different qualifying standards exist for children with disabilities applying for SSI, so consult a disability professional at Liner Legal Disability Lawyers for additional information.
Common Types of Misuse of Disability Benefits
According to the Social Security Administration, the vast majority of the more than 16 million people receiving disability benefits through SSI and SSDI do so responsibly and in compliance with the rules and regulations that apply to them. When misuse does happen, the most common methods include the following:
- Giving false or misleading information about your income and resources on an application for SSI.
- Giving false or misleading medical information or falsifying medical records to support an initial application or continuing review of a claim for benefits.
- Failing to notify Social Security about improvements or other changes in your medical condition that could affect eligibility for benefits.
- Not reporting a change in your employment status or the amount of income received while collecting Social Security disability benefits.
- When a representative payee appointed to manage benefits on behalf of a beneficiary who cannot do so misuses SSI or SSDI benefits.
- Filing a claim for benefits under another person’s Social Security number.
Any willful misrepresentation made during the application process to be approved for disability benefits or after approval to continue receiving them is Social Security fraud that subjects you to severe penalties.
Penalties For Misuse of Disability Benefits
The facts and circumstances of each case, including the nature of the misuse, will determine the extent of the penalties you may encounter. Some of the penalties include:
- Repayment Of Overpayments: If misrepresentation or failure to disclose results in a person receiving more monthly benefits than they would otherwise have been entitled to receive, they can be forced to repay the excess benefits with a reduction or loss of future benefits recovery of the SSI or SSDI overpayment.
- Criminal Charges And Penalties For Misuse Of SSI Funds: The SSI program is jointly funded and administered by the states and the federal government so you could be subject to penalties for misuse of SSI funds under federal and state laws.
- Criminal Penalties For Disability Benefits Fraud: Social Security fraud is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, depending on the facts, and fines of as much as $250,000. A civil penalty of $5,000 may be imposed even if criminal charges are not filed.
Misusing SSI and SSDI benefits may result in disqualification from the programs and a loss of benefits. For someone who depends on disability benefits to meet their personal and household needs, the loss of benefits can be financially devastating.
Getting Help from Experienced Disability Lawyers
Preventable mistakes and errors during the initial application process cause otherwise eligible applicants to be denied the benefits they need and deserve. Don’t take chances when so much is at stake. Get help with your application for benefits from the disability professionals at Liner Legal Disability Lawyers.
Their knowledge and experience ensure that your application for benefits complies with all rules and regulations to give you the best opportunity for approval of your claim. If a claim has been denied, let a disability lawyer from Liner Legal aggressively fight for your benefits through the appeal process. Contact us today for a free consultation and claim evaluation.