Social Security Fraud – Not Worth the Risk

People Get Caught and Receive Punishment in Court of Law

A case that was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General shows that fraud in this department is not worth the risk. SSA’s office of Investigations found that a former state legislator, 65-year-old Raymond E. Salva of Sugar Creek, intentionally failed to report and conceal his income and work activities. Salva received an income for his work in the legislature that exceeded $30,000 each year from January 2003 to December 2010.

Raymond Salva claimed Social Security Disability as a result of a neck injury which was approved by SSA in February 2000. Shortly after Salva began his first term as a state representative in 2003, he completed a form with the SSA saying he was not able to return to working. He also stated that he had not done any work since being disabled.

SAA lodged a query about Salva’s earnings by the end of 2004. Raymond Salva gave a false statement in which he claimed that an SSA representative told him that public service would not affect his disability benefits. He received a letter from SSA on March 16, 2008, notifying him that he received benefit payments to the amount of $58,816 to which he was not entitled to. The Administrative Law Judge found Salva at fault in causing the overpayment.

Stealing Money from People Who Cannot Work

Michael Burt of Archie, Missouri, also admitted in court on March 28, 2014, for receiving more than $109,000 in disability benefits he was not permitted to claim. Burt was approved for benefits after he was deemed medically unable to work in 2002.He began a full-time job at Two Bit Training in Overland Park, Kansas, in July 2004 and failed to report to SSA that he began working again. Burt will have to repay the full amount to the government and faces a prison sentence.

Major cases of social security disability fraud have been reported in Puerto Rico, West Virginia and New York. Several police officers falsely claimed disability from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. A testimony from a regional chief administrative law judge, Jasper J. Bede, revealed that some judges appeared to be rubber-stamping applications. Judge Daugherty approved nearly all of his cases from 2005 through 2011, awarding almost 8,500 applicants for benefits. This is the equivalent of $2.5 billion in total lifetime benefits.

Many people claimed falsely that they lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, or they worked Ground Zero in order to receive benefits. A former FBI agent, John Minerva, and a previous Nassau County prosecutor helped gather applicants and reviewed the final paperwork. Prosecutors said they coached and helped greedy FDNY and NYPD members to claim disability benefits by faking mental illnesses.

The worst offender on record was Louis Hurtado, who received $470,395 while conning the SSA system since 1989. Hurtado, living in an upscale home in Pasco and a karate-studio owner, retired from the NYPD after an automobile accident. He applied for a disability benefit on top of a regular pension, claiming he suffered a lot of depression because of a back injury. Prosecutors said he lied about his psychological disability to gain Social Security benefits. Hurtado boasts on his Website that he has been a bodyguard for stars such as James Caan and Sean Connery.

Acts That May Constitute Disability Fraud

Various acts may constitute disability fraud, such as continuing to receive payments after recovering from a medical problem, exaggeration of an existing condition or receiving benefits while working. It is never easy to determine if a person receiving benefits is disabled or not. Some medical conditions are hard to prove against one’s own word that one does not have it, such as chronic pain or fatigue syndrome. People must be honest on their application. By abusing the benefits is committing Social Security fraud and may be prosecuted.

Social Security by 2016

A memo to Social Security detailed several recommendations for improving the disability system. Key members of Congress suggested that the explosion of applications in recent years can bankrupt Social Security Disability by 2016.

Social Security fraud jeopardizes the economic security of the millions of Americans with disabilities. The Social Security’s economic assistance program keeps people out of poverty and enables them to purchase food and secure housing. The program supports people with physical or mental conditions that prevent them from working.

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