Fraud is a big problem which plagues the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program – a crime which the federal government continues to prosecute with heavy fines, prison time, and probation. Some people who commit Social Security Disability Insurance fraud succeed in receiving undeserved funds from the SSA for a matter of years before they are caught, as in the case of a Duluth man who was recently convicted.
David Randall Litsey, a 53-year-old man, applied for a Social Security card using a false birthday and switching his first and middle names to create a new identity. The new number which was created allowed him to apply for SSDI using other false information, and he was approved for benefits in 1992. Until 2010, he received disability benefits amounting to over $176,000.
Litsey pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 months in prison as well as 3 years of probation. It is doubtful he will ever attempt to defraud the federal government again.
Although seeing justice served is gratifying, this does not negate the fact that fraud still occurs on a regular basis and often for many years. Meanwhile, eligible applicants for disability benefits are being refused because the system is bogged down with just such fraudulent applications. While the SSA carefully determines each case, many of which turn out to be fraudulent, people who genuinely need help are waiting.
Some might wonder if harsher penalties for fraud would make it less appealing. But harsher punishments may be overshadowed by the prospect of getting away with fraud against the SSA for many years before getting caught, as exampled in the headlines on regular basis.
Another place to look at reforming is the SSA’s disability application process as well as their review process. While the SSA has made recent strides in its efforts to streamline the application process with the goal of clearing out a mass of backlogged cases, it may be inadvertently streamlining fraudulent cases, as well.
The SSA’s review process is also in need of some attention. The current system requires awarded cases to be reviewed at either 1, 3, 5, or 7 years after the initial determination. The time span before a case is reviewed is determined by how severe a person’s condition is proven to be. If the condition has high chances of improving, a review is set for one year from the time benefits are awarded, all the way up to 7 years.
It may be argued that these time spans before reviews are too lengthy, but more frequent reviews may require too much manpower in a system that has already suffered layoffs and reduced funding. However, the longer people like Litsey are fraudulently receiving benefits, the longer it will take for others to receive benefits they are entitled to.
This and many other problems still plague the SSDI program, but at the very least, the federal government is still finding and prosecuting fraud within the system, and will continue to do so.