Social Security Disability benefits are not easy to get. Anyone who has ever been through the disability claim process understands this fully. It would be nice to think that once those benefits begin, the battle is over. Unfortunately, for some disability recipients, a new battle begins when disability payments start – a battle against fraud and misuse of their disability income.
This past October people were shocked to learn that four individuals had been charged with the kidnapping of several mentally disabled adults. The reason behind the kidnappings? So the perpetrators could take control of the disabled individuals’ Social Security Disability benefits. Just how long had this gone on? According to some reports, one of the people charged had been cashing disability checks for years and the Social Security Administration never even noticed. This resulted in lawmakers worrying whether or not the checks that are issued to Social Security Disability recipients are actually being issued safely.
In November, 14 lawmakers asked that a review be conducted of the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payment Program. The lawmakers want this review performed to determine whether or not improvements can be made in order to protect the recipients who may be vulnerable to losing their disability payments as a result of payees not using the funds as they are intended to be used.
Currently the SSA’s Representative Payee Program allows friends family members or qualified organizations to collect a disability recipient’s checks on their behalf and manage their funds for them. This is intended to help recipients who are incapable of managing their own finances. While a representative payee has to meet certain criteria in order to collect benefits on a disabled individual’s behalf, lawmakers are worried that these guidelines are not being enforced by the Administration.
Currently there are about 5.6 million people who collect and manage Social Security benefits on behalf of those who are unable to manage their own finances. The question is, how many of those people are spending the funds appropriately and who is holding them accountable? It is doubtful that these four individuals are the only ones out there who have been victimizing the recipients of benefits from the Social Security Administration. The question is, exactly what is going to be done about it?
Hopefully, after the review is conducted, lawmakers will be able to put additional guidelines and laws in place that will have to be followed if an individual wishes to act as a representative payee for a Social Security Disability recipient. Without such guidelines and laws in place, there is nothing stopping some representative payees from doing what they wish with the benefits that they manage instead of using those funds in the way they were initially intended to be used – to care for the disabled individual and to help them meet their basic living expenses.