CDI: Preventing Social Security Disability Fraud

Beyond the Numbers

Date: 
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Posted by: 
The Office of External Relations

The Cooperative Disability Investigations program operates with a clear goal in mind: Identify potential improper SSA payments before they are made.

CDI is a joint initiative involving the Social Security Administration (SSA), the OIG, State Disability Determination Services (DDS), and State and local law enforcement agencies.

CDI Units—comprised of OIG, SSA, DDS, and State or local law enforcement personnel—investigate Social Security disability claims that State disability examiners find suspicious or lacking evidence they need to make an accurate decision. CDI personnel gather information to help disability examiners decide whether to approve or deny benefits.

We currently operate 25 CDI Units covering 21 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. California, Missouri, and Texas each have two CDI Units.  

As we’re about to report in the Semiannual Report to Congress, CDI program efforts in Fiscal Year 2012 resulted in $339.6 million in projected savings to Social Security’s disability programs—the program’s greatest single-year savings total.  That’s a big increase from $281.3 million in projected savings in Fiscal Year 2011.

The total sounds impressive, but let’s answer some questions you may have about what that figure actually means, and how we accomplished it:

How do you calculate SSA program savings? If a CDI investigation determines an applicant is not eligible for Social Security disability, SSA doesn’t pay any benefits.

  • We report savings of $90,125 for each initial claim where CDI findings contributes to a disability examiner’s decision to deny the claim. An independent team of SSA officials determined this savings figure by analyzing historic SSA claims and payment data. 
  • Sometimes our CDI Units investigate current beneficiaries as well.  If those investigations lead to the termination of benefits, we use a separate savings calculation to estimate the average number of years the beneficiary would have continued receiving benefits, and the total payments the beneficiary would have received during that time.

How do you explain the 21-percent increase in savings from Fiscal Years 2011 to 2012?

  • The CDI program has added four new units—in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah, and Mississippi—since the middle of Fiscal Year 2011, which means we have more personnel available to investigate referred claims.
  • There are also more people filing claims for disability benefits overall, which means potentially more claims for the CDI Units to investigate. As this Associated Press article explains, disability claims increase during times of economic uncertainty. The AP reported that about 11 million people receive Social Security disability benefits—an increase of more than 23 percent over the past five years.

To give you a more concrete idea of what the CDI Units do, here’s an example from Seattle:

We investigated a 25-year-old man who applied for disability benefits based on a mental disorder, low IQ, and difficulty reading and writing. The Washington Disability Determination Service referred this case because they received inconsistent reports from several mental evaluations, which showed a variation of over 20 IQ points.  Also, the man reported that he was homeless, but we had information indicating he was a full-time college student.

During our investigation, we interviewed the man, and he admitted that he graduated college with a business degree. We also found that he been working full-time for eight months as a bank teller. With this and other evidence, the Washington DDS denied the man’s claim—which prevented SSA from paying him benefits that he was never eligible for.

For more on CDI, check out this OIG-produced video on the program, which includes several case examples.

If you suspect someone is receiving Social Security benefits they’re not entitled to, please submit a fraud allegation to us though the Fraud Reporting Form.