Yesterday, as the Inspector General testified in a Congressional hearing room, we played two videos for the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
In the first, a man who had already received $11,000 in Social Security disability benefits purchased a cane at a drug store on his way to an SSA medical exam that would determine if he was still disabled and entitled to benefits. He leaned heavily on the new cane as he limped into the exam, carried it out under his arm after he left the exam, then went back to the drug store and returned the cane for a refund. The combination of the drug store’s security tape and our surveillance video revealed him as a fraud, and he’ll have to repay the $11,000 he stole from SSA.
In the second, a man who had already been receiving disability benefits for eight years due in large part to debilitating back pain was seen dancing in his living room, playing a broom like a guitar, and riding a scooter around a parking lot. That one wasn’t even our surveillance video, but a self-shot video the man posted with pride on his YouTube channel.
These clips illustrated dramatically the thrust of the testimony delivered by the Inspector General, accompanied by the national coordinator of the Cooperative Disability Investigations, or CDI, program, at the subcommittee’s hearing, “Challenges of Achieving Fair and Consistent Disability Decisions.” The IG discussed how two important anti-fraud tools—the CDI program and SSA’s continuing disability reviews, or CDRs, can come together to fight fraud and save taxpayer money.
Although the CDI program was designed in the 1990s primarily to investigate suspicious applications for disability fraud before benefits are ever paid, CDI teams in 21 states have close working relationships with the State Disability Determination Services (DDS) that process SSA disability applications and refer suspicious cases. The DDSs also conduct SSA’s medical CDRs, so they sometimes suspect fraud on the part of beneficiaries already receiving benefits, like our cane buyer. When they do, they turn to their CDI partners to investigate, and the results often reveal fraud as brazen as that described above.
Of course, with CDI teams in 24 locations in 21 states (soon to be joined by a unit in Puerto Rico), that leaves 29 State DDSs without CDI teams to help them ferret out fraud. We’d love to see teams in all 50 states, as would the National Association of Disability Examiners. For now, the dedicated examiners in the DDSs in those 29 states turn to our traditional investigative offices or do their best to look into the suspected fraud with what tools they have available.
You can read the Inspector General’s written statement if you want to learn more about disability program integrity. To learn more about the CDI program, visit this page on our website, or watch this video, featuring CDI national coordinator Heather Hermann, who joined the IG at the witness table yesterday. And as always, if you know of Social Security fraud being committed, help us by submitting an allegation here.
We thank the Subcommittee for convening the hearing, for their support of our work, and for their dedication to Social Security programs day in and day out.