Social Security Disability benefits anyone unable to work for a year or more due to a serious medical condition. Unfortunately, some people illegally exploit the program by lying about their medical condition. While the government tries to prevent fraud, you can help them by reporting possible fraud to the Social Security Administration.
Disability fraud is a serious crime, so before you file a report, make sure you understand how federal disability programs work.
Who to Contact to Report Disability Fraud?
If you are aware of fraud, here are the most common ways to report it:
- Call the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0721. Those using TTY devices can call 1-866-501-2101.
- Report the fraud online on the SSA.gov website.
- Fax a report to the Social Security Administration at 410-597-0118.
- Mail a report to:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17785
Baltimore MD 21235
What Is Social Security Disability Fraud?
Social Security disability fraud exists whenever a person receives disability payments they are not entitled to.
While Social Security Disability helps those who are truly unable to work, fraudsters benefit from fabricating a serious disability. The integrity of the program is threatened when people attempt to receive payments for which they are not qualified. Any payments they receive bleed funds that are earmarked for those who are truly in need due to a severe medical injury or condition.
What Does Disability Fraud Look Like?
Here are various forms of disability fraud to be aware of:
- Improperly lying, misrepresenting or falsifying an injury, illness or medical condition on the benefits application to claim eligibility for payments.
- Working at another job or multiple jobs while collecting disability may be disability fraud in some situations.
- Receiving disability benefits in addition to collecting unreported worker’s compensation payments or private disability insurance payments.
- Continuing to accept disability payments after recovering from a qualifying health condition and being capable of working.
It’s important to note that you can still have another job while collecting SSDI as long as you earn less than your disability payments. You must report the income, which is then deducted from your Social Security benefit payment.
The disability program often allows someone to continue receiving benefits while they return to work. A common reason for continued benefits is to make sure the recipient can handle their new workload upon returning to their job.
Other Forms of Disability Fraud
Disability fraud is commonly committed by persons other than the beneficiary. Some caretakers, for instance, commit disability fraud by accepting and cashing disability checks after the beneficiary has passed away.
Caretakers can also take advantage of the SSDI program by fraudulently mismanaging the needs of a person with disabilities (PWD). The fraud occurs when a caretaker uses the SSI or SSDI benefits of the disabled beneficiary for purposes outside of their care.
If you suspect a caretaker is using disability benefits to pay for home or auto repairs, it may not be nefarious. In fact, caretakers who live with the beneficiary may be allowed to use the money for qualified repairs so long as it directly benefits the person in their care.
Before You Report Disability Fraud
Fraud is a serious accusation; You need to know someone very well before making an allegation. At a minimum, you should know why they are eligible for benefits. If you don’t know, research would need to be done before a complaint could be filed.
Often, it’s hard to understand the full extent of a good friend’s disability and how it makes living and working difficult for them. Mental and psychological disorders, for example, are common reasons to claim disability, but they can be tough for a friend or colleague to notice or know how it interferes with their daily life.
If you’re unsure about the credibility of someone’s disability claim, it’s better to ask questions to get to the truth, than to risk making false accusations. However, if you’re certain of wrongdoing, consider reporting that person.
Steps to Report Social Security Disability Fraud
The easiest way to report disability fraud is to call the SSA Fraud Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. The OIG looks into all cases to verify charges with evidence. To that end, provide the following information as best as you can to help investigators open and carry out an investigation.
- Name, address, date of birth, pertinent phone numbers and Social Security number (if known) of the suspected fraudster.
- Photo/video evidence of suspect participating in activities that bring stated disability into question.
- Documents and records that refute someone’s medical basis for a claim or show abuse of disability benefit payments.
You can also go to the SSA’s Fraud Report form online and fill out a claim. You will be required to submit the above-listed information as part of the claim.
Only report facts you know for certain and avoid guessing or speculation as you’ll face stiff penalties for reporting false information.
Can I Report Disability Fraud Anonymously?
The OIG offers a few different confidentiality options for anyone who wants to submit a fraud claim:
- Remain anonymous: Keeps your identity private but makes it difficult for investigators when they need additional information.
- Identify yourself but keep report private: You identify yourself so you may aid in the investigation, but your name is withheld from the public.
- Forfeit confidentiality: In this case, your name is part of the official record and the OIG may share your information freely.
Penalties for Social Security Disability Fraud
As you might imagine, the penalties for Social Security disability fraud are severe. A convicted fraudster can earn a sentence up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
Doctors, caretakers or other representatives in positions of trust, as well as SSA employees, may be penalized for up to 10 years in prison for disability fraud. What’s more, they may be sued in civil court and ordered to pay up to $7,500 for every false statement or representation for which they are convicted.
The Bottom Line
Social Security Disability provides real financial relief for those suffering from a serious medical condition affecting their ability to work. However, many unscrupulous actors attempt to take advantage of the system and receive disability payments they are not entitled to.
If you strongly suspect that someone is committing disability fraud, consider reporting them to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
It can not be overstated though, that reporting false information is a crime, so any report you submit should be truthful and fact-based.