Transcript: The Cooperative Disability Investigations Program

Hello. My name is Heather Hermann and I am an Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge for the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. I serve as the national coordinator of the Cooperative Disability Investigations Program; commonly referred to as CDI. The CDI program is a joint effort between SSA and OIG working in conjunction with State Disability Determination Services and State or local law enforcement. CDI Units investigate suspicious disability claims under SSA’s Title II and Title XVI disability Programs.

The main objective of CDI is to obtain evidence that can resolve questions of fraud in SSA disability programs. CDI investigations also promote solvency of SSA’s Trust Fund, preserve the public’s confidence in SSA’s stewardship, and help State run public assistance programs in reducing fraud waste and abuse. CDI was established in 1998 with five units, but has grown to 25 units, with at least one unit located in each SSA region. In 2011, the CDI program added four units in:

  • Lexington, Kentucky;
  • Salt Lake City, Utah;
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and
  • Jackson, Mississippi.

The CDI Units are comprised of an OIG special agent, personnel from SSA and State Disability Determination Services or DDS, and investigators from State or local law enforcement. These CDI Unit members use their skill and experience to investigate suspicious disability claims identified by SSA, DDS or other sources and to investigate suspicious third parties such as doctors, lawyers or interpreters who promote or facilitate fraud.

The investigations help to identify fraud at the onset, which reduces improper payments. The results of a CDI investigation are provided to SSA or DDS in the form of a summary report. The report details the facts uncovered during the investigation. It does not provide opinions; only the facts that are needed to support SSA or DDS in approving or denying a disability claim. The results of a CDI investigation help SSA and DDS to make accurate and timely determinations.

Now I’d like to present a couple of examples of cases that the CDI units have investigated. The subjects were filmed by CDI investigators, and you’ll see from the videos why CDI investigations can play a crucial role in the benefit determination process. This first surveillance video shows an investigation by the Tampa CDI unit. The investigation revealed that, while in the lobby of the Social Security office, the man used a cane in a seemingly casual manner; which was inconsistent with a person who would rely on a cane for balance or support. For approximately an hour, the man sat and stood casually without any apparent discomfort. Later on, you see the man lifting a piece of furniture into a dumpster and sweeping debris off the roof of his house.

This next video shows a man who applied for disability benefits, due to back and shoulder problems and constant pain. He claimed difficulty walking and bending and that he had to use a cane when walking and an electric cart while shopping. During a visit to SSA, the man was moaning and groaning due to pain and used a cane. As you can see, the video shows the man shopping without a cane or an electric cart and carrying bags of groceries without trouble. Later, while coaching a peewee football team practice, he was stretching, bending at the waist, throwing, and catching a football. Out St. Louis CDI unit investigated a man who applied for disability due to constant pain. The man claimed he could not do much lifting, standing walking or sitting. He told SSA that his girlfriend was responsible for all of his daily care, including walking his dogs. The video however, tells a different story. It shows the man leaving his house with two dogs and walking the dogs in the yard. He then drives himself to a business; gets a bulky guitar and amplifier out of his car and carries them inside. Next he gets gas at a gas station and goes to an appointment. After the appointment, his car breaks down, and when the tow truck arrives, the man helps his companion into the truck and then gets into the truck without any help.

Our Tampa unit videotaped a woman who said she was so disabled that she could not sit, stand or lift for long periods. As you can see here, the woman bends easily while picking up furniture, lifting it into the truck, and jumping from the truck’s tailgate.

And finally, one of our most famous surveillance subjects, who allege serve back pain, other physical ailments, and the inability to handle the physical demands of even the most sedentary jobs. I think this video speaks for itself.

As you just saw, our CDI program saves the government millions of dollars. In Fiscal Year 2011, our CDI investigations resulted in 281 million dollars in projected savings to SSA programs and about 182 million in projected savings to non-SSA programs. And since the program was established in 1998, CDI has reported about 1.9 billion dollars in projected savings to SSA’s disability programs. SSA and OIG plan to continue to expanding the CDI program as budget and staffing resources allow.

In closing, if you have information involving possible fraud waste or abuse in or against SSA’s programs, you can report fraud by: 

  • calling SSA/OIG fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271,
  • by writing us at
    • Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General
      Attention: OIG Fraud Hotline
      P.O. Box 17768,
      Baltimore, MD 21235;
  • Or by visiting us online, highlighting the report fraud, waste and abuse tab, and clicking the link to submit a report. From there you’ll be taken to the fraud reporting form.

I’m Heather Hermann for the SSA Office of the Inspector General. Thank you for watching this video.