A 66-year old man from Las Vegas will be spending the next eighteen months in prison, but not for one of the typical kinds of gambling crimes associated with Sin City. Paul Smith risked much more than he realized when he decided to work ‘under the table’ while collecting disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Paul G. Smith, a licensed chiropractor who owned and operated Rainbow Chiropractic Center in Las Vegas filed for Social Security disability benefits back in 1994. However ironic it was that his disability was due to a back injury, his application was accepted. Considering the high denial rate of first-time disability filings, the proof he submitted was sufficient evidence that he was indeed disabled. However, his subsequent actions demonstrate that he had withheld information and wasn’t truly disabled according to the SSA’s definition of the term – unable to perform any work besides one’s present occupation.
Even though he wasn’t a practicing chiropractic doctor from 1994 until 2005, Smith continued to earn income from owning and managing his chiropractic office, wages which he failed to report to the SSA. During these years, he received over $400,000 in disability benefits.
Smith also moonlighted as a boxing judge during the years he collected benefits from the SSA. Paul Smith also failed to report these earnings to the Administration, which totaled a whopping $133,000.
Smith’s fraud was caught and prosecuted by the SSA last August, and this week he was officially sentenced by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro to spend 18 months in prison, a sentence he will start carrying out by July 20th. In addition to the prison time, he will be required to restore more than $435,000 in funds he unlawfully received from the SSDI program while earning other income.
Smith’s case proves that even documented physical injuries often do not hinder a person from performing other kinds of work, especially those based not on labor but on specialized knowledge and mental capabilities.
Smith’s case should not, however, lead people to believe that a mere physical injury is enough to qualify a person for Social Security disability. He deliberately kept information from the SSA when they were determining his case, such as his boxing judge stints, that were obviously not hindered by his back injury. If Smith’s case had been presented truthfully, he would never have been awarded disability benefits.
Situations like these are what the SSA tries to prevent by their rigorous disability determination process. Tough standards are even more important at a time when the SSA as a whole is facing serious financial problems. Even though this also makes the acceptance process longer for legitimate disability cases, it is worth the goal of filtering out people who do not qualify. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is not in the business of giving handouts to people who are able to work, and will continue to do everything possible to prevent such people from being accepted by the program.