According to a report done by 20/20 earlier this year, “social security pays out more than $175 billion to people on disability, but in the last fiscal year alone, nearly 72,000 fraud allegation claims were reported to the Social Security’s office of the inspector general.” The biggest instance of fraud, the report goes on to say, was in New York City where “…more than 130 people, many of them police officers and fireman who worked on 9/11 terrorist attack rescues and clean-up, were indicted for allegedly conspiring to defraud the government out of $2.2 million.”
That’s the exception that proves the rule, the report insists. Most of the fraudulent reports and applications are filed by, most of the time, exactly who you would expect: people trying to make a quick buck and/or get out of holding down a regular job.
Complicating matters are also scam artists who are hoping to make a quick buck off of the backs of vulnerable people who find themselves in need of help. For example, in Kentucky, many individuals’ disability benefits have been suspended because the attorney who represented them, Eric C Conn (what a name), and the judge who approved his clients’ applications have been found guilty of frauding the social security system out of millions (perhaps even billions) of dollars.
Because fraud has become so rampant within the system, it is becoming harder than ever for people who are genuinely afflicted by physical and mental disabilities to get their applications approved. This isn’t just the case at the government level. One of the most important pieces of information that the Social Security Administration wants to know is the state of your overall health. Doctors visits and thorough examinations are required before a person can even hope to advance their claim past the initial paperwork stage.
Unfortunately, many physicians, physical therapists, and other reporters within the system are so skeptical of the applicants they examine that many are allowing their skepticism to blind them to real conditions. And with the shortage on nurses and physicians available to see patients, many evaluations are being rushed and, as a result botched.
So people, many of whom are already financially destitute, and who are already hurting and having a hard time and might not be able to hold down a job are now forced to rack up thousands of dollars in medical costs to prove to a broken system that they need help. The system itself is increasing their hardship before deciding whether or not to believe they need help in the first place.
Unfortunately, while many agree that there is a huge need for reform and reoganization within the system and that the system itself needs more regulation, nobody can agree on how, exactly to do that.
According to Politico, the Republicans in congress attempted to come up with a “fix” for the system at the start of 2015. Unfortunately, the fine print of their proposal makes it look like they are trying to create loopholes that would allow them to completely gut the entire social security system in the future.
President Obama tried to shift funds into the disability system early in 2015 as well, but it too was blocked by Congress’s right wing.
Unfortunately for the time being, there is no real way to fix the system as any attempt to do so immediately gets caught in an endless string of debates and attacks from whichever side has not proposed a fix. Until Congress can get its act together and figure out how to handle budget issues responsibly the funding for the program is going to remain tight. And as long as the funding is tight, people are going to go to greater and greater lengths to scam the system. And, unfortunately, getting Congress to agree on any reform or regulations is even harder than getting them to agree on funding so, for now, people are (for the most part) simply out of luck.
It’s depressing, but without some major overhaul in how things are done in Washington, that’s how it is going to stay.