The Social Security Administration takes disability fraud seriously, which may account for its low fraud rate of less than 1%. One percent may not seem like much until taken in the context of the vastness of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs that have a combined total of 15 million people currently receiving disability benefits.
If you suspect someone of committing disability fraud, you can report it to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can report fraud online, by phone, mail, or fax. It is not necessary to give your name or contact information. Here is a look at disability fraud, including what constitutes fraud and what happens when you report it.
What is disability fraud?
The SSA defines fraud as failing to disclose material facts to get disability payments or other benefits. A fact is “material” when it affects the decision made by the SSA or determination services about a person’s eligibility for benefits or a continuation of their current benefits.
The following examples of fraud may help to understand what Social Security is looking for when someone files a report for disability fraud:
- False statements made on applications for disability benefits.
- Concealment of facts and events affecting a person’s eligibility for SSI or SSDI.
- Misuse of benefit payments.
- Failing to report the death of an SSI or SSDI beneficiary to the SSA and continuing to collect their benefits.
- Using someone else’s Social Security number to file a claim for disability benefits.
Fraud can be the result of what a person says or does, but it also can be the failure of a person to provide information that could affect an eligibility determination or the amount of disability benefits they are entitled to receive.
Specific fraudulent activities include:
- Working while collecting disability benefits and not reporting it to the SSA.
- Concealing improvement of your medical condition.
- Concealing income and resources that could affect SSI eligibility.
- Making false statements about marital status or living arrangements that affect eligibility for SSI or the amount of monthly benefits.
These are only examples of disability fraud, but any effort to obtain or continue receiving disability benefits through lies, deceit, or concealment of information can become the subject of a fraud investigation by Social Security.
How do you report disability fraud?
If you suspect someone of committing disability fraud, there is a simple process to make a report for disability fraud to the Social Security Administration. The OIG has a fraud hotline to call and make a report at 1-800-269-0271. You can report it online if you do not wish to call the OIG.
You will be asked to provide information about the suspected fraud when you call or go online to make a report, including:
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of the victim and the person suspected of committing fraud.
- Dates of birth, if available, of victims and the person suspected of the fraudulent conduct.
- Social Security numbers that were used to commit the suspected fraud.
- Description of the fraudulent activities.
- Location where the suspected fraud took place.
- Names and contact information for other people who may have knowledge of or information about the suspected fraud.
You can either give your name when reporting suspected fraud activity or remain anonymous. The choice is yours, but your report of suspected fraud will receive the same attention regardless of your decision.
What happens after you report disability fraud?
After you report disability fraud, the OIG reviews your allegation and determines whether to open an investigation. The OIG may contact you for additional information if you provide your contact details. The OIG will coordinate with other law enforcement agencies and state and local authorities as needed.
The OIG investigates allegations of fraud and seeks to bring offenders to justice when criminal activity is involved. The OIG refers cases to the Department of Justice and other state and local prosecuting authorities for prosecution. The penalties for disability fraud may include fines, restitution, imprisonment, or loss of benefits.
How to work without committing fraud?
People receiving disability benefits who want to work to do so without losing their benefits as long as they report it to the SSA. Work incentives let people receiving SSDI benefits return to work in a trial work period that lasts for nine months. The nine months need not be consecutive but must be used within 60 months.
During the trial work period, you get to retain everything you earn from working without it affecting your SSDI benefits. If you receive disability benefits through SSI, your work income will not affect the disability benefits that you receive as long as the income does not exceed SSI limits. Each state sets its own income limits, so speak to a disability professional at Liner Legal Disability Lawyers before you start working.
Contact a disability lawyer for additional information
Staying out of trouble by avoiding activities that may affect your disability benefits or result in someone reporting you for committing fraud is easy when you rely on the advice and representation of an experienced disability professional at Liner Legal Disability Lawyers. Contact us today for a free consultation and claim review.