We are required by law to update Congress twice a year on our efforts to oversee SSA’s programs and operations and to combat Social Security fraud, waste, and abuse. We do this through two Semiannual Reports to Congress.
We recently issued and published our report for the April-through-September 2017 period. Here are four numbers from the report that highlight our investigative, audit, and legal accomplishments from the recent reporting period.
As a result of our special agents’ investigative work, we reported over $74 million in SSA recoveries, restitution, fines, settlements, and judgments from April through September. Our special agents pursued allegations related to Social Security benefit fraud, Social Security number misuse, SSA employee misconduct, and other suspected violations.
For example, based on an anonymous allegation, our special agents investigated a Pennsylvania man suspected of disability fraud. The investigation revealed that the man operated his own general contracting business, and from June 2005 through October 2015, he received Social Security disability benefits to which he was not entitled. The man pleaded guilty to government theft, and in August 2017, a judge sentenced him to probation and ordered him to repay $207,592 to SSA.
Our auditors issued 53 audit reports during the reporting period on various issues related to Social Security’s programs and operations, identifying Social Security program vulnerabilities and providing recommendations to SSA to address them.
In one of the reports, Widow(er)s Eligible for an Earlier Month of Entitlement, our auditors recommended that SSA should determine if it needs additional controls to identify widow(er)s who may be eligible for additional Social Security benefits. They made this recommendation after they analyzed Social Security data and estimated that SSA underpaid $285 million to more than 110,000 widow(er)s who were eligible for an earlier month of entitlement.
Our attorneys imposed over $4.5 million in penalties and assessments against people for violations of Section 1129 of the Social Security Act. The OIG is authorized to impose penalties against people who make false statements or representations, or knowingly withhold information from SSA, to obtain or retain Social Security benefits.
In one case, a Maryland woman failed to report her grandmother’s death, and from 2008 to 2015, she wrongfully withdrew and spent over $135,000 in SSA retirement benefits deposited in a bank account she shared with her grandmother. After the woman admitted her wrongdoing, our attorneys imposed a $135,592 assessment and a $10,000 penalty, for a total penalty of $145,592.
During the reporting period, our Allegation Management and Fugitive Enforcement Division (AMFED) received 44,918 fraud allegations through the Social Security Fraud Hotline. Our AMFED program specialists analyzed all of these allegations and determined appropriate action, including referral to our special agents for investigation, to SSA for administrative action, or to another agency for review.
If you suspect someone of committing fraud against Social Security, you can submit an allegation to the OIG here.