Many people file claims for disability benefits through Social Security and wait years for their applications to receive a final decision. In that time, their conditions may have gotten worse and their financial situations more tenuous. The day that award letter arrives is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, not everyone who receives benefits deserves them, which is the reason the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) exists.
The OIG was created to keep the Social Security Administration (SSA) efficient and effective, and its purpose is to prevent and detect waste, abuse, mismanagement, and fraud. The OIG accomplishes its task by conducting and supervising investigations, audits, and evaluations into SSA’s programs.
In general terms, Social Security fraud occurs when an individual with the intent to commit fraud provides a false statement, conceals, misrepresents, or fails to disclose one or more material facts. Facts are considered material if they would influence SSA’s determination regarding whether the individual were entitled to disability benefits.
There are a variety of situations that the OIG may consider fraudulent and that will prompt an investigation. They include but are not limited to: a relevant party fails to notify SSA that a beneficiary has died, but money continues to be collected; an individual bribes an SSA employee; a beneficiary continues to work while receiving disability benefits; a representative payee misuses another’s benefits; a beneficiary collects Supplemental Security Income (SSI) while residing overseas; an individual files a claim under another person’s Social Security number; or an SSI beneficiary conceals a marriage or other assets from SSA.
Scammers pose additional concerns. SSA may contact beneficiaries via text message, telephone, and email but will never ask for personal information. Savvy scammers, however, can pose as SSA employees and request personal and identifying information. They can be extremely threatening in their language, frequently scaring people that if they do not provide the demanded information, they will lose their benefits.
If you are on the phone with someone purporting to work for SSA, but you feel like something is wrong, do not give that person any information, and hang up the phone. Then call your local Social Security office to ask if they really do need that information. If it turns out they don’t, contact the OIG immediately and report the details of your experience.
Should you become the subject of an OIG fraud investigation, you have nothing to worry about if you did nothing wrong. If you do not already have legal representation from your disability claim, now is the time to seek one out because an experienced disability attorney can protect your interests and ease the stress of the process.