If you’ve ever watched funny videos showing thieves undoing themselves, or read weird news stories about criminals who do stupid things, you have an idea of how we feel at Social Security when we learn about some of the people who try (and fail) to defraud taxpayers. Social Security’s employees and our Office of the Inspector General diligently work to uncover fraud and prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law. We take fraud seriously. Here are some real Social Security fraud stories.
Police rushed to the house of a Florida man who’d been shot in the face. The gunshot victim was in possession of about 250 stolen Social Security checks. He got batches of checks from a postal worker who was stealing them from the mail and had been selling the stolen checks on the street. The victim cooperated with authorities and received a sentence of two years in federal prison for theft of government funds and theft of mail.
A Maryland waterman falsely certified he was not working, even though he owned and operated two profitable fishing boats while collecting disability benefits. He racked up $36,691 in disability benefits and $35,610 in Medicare services. He has been indicted and faces up to 10 years in prison for theft of government property and 5 years in prison for making a false statement to Social Security and for improper receipt of benefits.
A Pennsylvania man pled guilty to pocketing more than $304,000 of his deceased mother’s Social Security benefits for 40 years after her death in 1973.
While Social Security employees are always on the lookout for fraud and have historically been one of our best weapons against it, we also rely on you to let us know when you suspect someone is committing fraud against Social Security. They are, in fact, stealing your tax dollars. Reporting fraud is a smart thing to do. It’s easy to report fraud online by visiting the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse page at http://oig.ssa.gov/report. www.oig.ssa.gov/report.
Reporting fraud is the smart (and right) thing to do.
Social Security celebrates 79 years
For the past 79 years, Social Security has maintained its place as an American cornerstone. Secure as its foundation is, Social Security has also been at the forefront of change. As the face of America has evolved over the course of the last eight decades, so too has Social Security changed along with the needs of the nation.
On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Social Security “represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete. It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”
The Social Security Act President Roosevelt signed that day covered a limited number of workers in commerce and industry and provided only retirement benefits.
Today, Social Security is much more than a retirement program. It provides benefits to disabled individuals and their families and benefits to widows, widowers and the minor children of deceased workers. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) helps aged and disabled people who have low income and limited resources. We have work incentives to help those people with disabilities go to work. Social Security even provides Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. In so many ways, Social Security benefits America.
Social Security works because it is an enduring agreement between generations. It is arguably our government’s most important program, and quite possibly the strongest expression of community our nation has. For 79 years, Social Security has made a tremendous and positive difference in the lives of millions, and this is certainly something to celebrate.
Learn more about Social Security’s rich history at www.socialsecurity.gov/history. Become a part of Social Security’s history by choosing to do business with us online at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
Women and Social Security
Women’s Equality Day is Aug. 26, and this is the perfect time to remind you how much Social Security values and appreciates women. Even though men and women with identical earnings histories receive the same benefits, there are things women in particular should know about Social Security. There are trends and differences in lifestyle and patterns of earnings that can affect benefits.
For example, some women may be caregivers for many people: spouses, children, and parents. Taking time away from the workplace to care for a newborn child, ailing spouse, or aging parent can have an impact on your future Social Security benefits.
Also, despite significant strides through the years, women are more likely to earn less over a lifetime than men. In addition, women are less likely than men to be covered by private retirement plans, so they are more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years.
Did you know that women tend to live on average about five years longer than men? This means more years depending on Social Security and whatever other retirement income or savings they accumulate.
If a woman’s spouse earns significantly more than she does, it is very possible she will qualify for a larger benefit amount on the spouse’s record than on her own. To learn more, visit our Women’s page at www.socialsecurity.gov/women and read, print, or listen to our publication, What Every Woman Should Know.
You may also be interested in listening to Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, on National Public Radio as she talks about women and money. Just visit www.npr.org/2014/04/15/301782870/social-security-chief-women-live-longer-so-they-should-save-early.
To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, learn how Social Security treats men and women equally by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/women.
Get to know the faces and facts of disability
Perhaps the most misunderstood Social Security program is disability insurance, often referred to as SSDI. Some people mistakenly think that beneficiaries are “on the dole” and getting easy money for minor impairments. That’s not the case. There are two ways to understand the truth about disability. One is by looking at the facts. The other is by getting to know some of the people who make up the many faces of disability.
We have some of the strictest requirements in the world for disability benefits. The Social Security Act sets out a very strict definition of disability. To receive a disability benefit, a person must have an impairment expected to last at least one year or result in death. The impairment must be so severe that it renders the person unable to perform any substantial work in the national job market, not just their previous work. SSDI does not include temporary or partial disability benefits. Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country and tend to have high death rates.
In addition, Social Security conducts a periodic review of people who receive disability benefits to ensure they remain eligible for disability. Social Security also aggressively works to prevent, detect, and prosecute fraud. Social Security often investigates suspicious disability claims before making a decision to award benefits — proactively stopping fraud before it happens. These steps help to ensure that only those eligible have access to disability benefits.
Americans place a high premium on self-sufficiency, but it is reassuring to know that Social Security disability insurance is there for those who need it the most.
As for the faces . . . there are so many people who benefit from our disability program. But for now, allow us to introduce you to a few of them. Meet some of the faces of disability—people who have benefited from Social Security when they were most in need—at the new Faces and Facts of Disability website, www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts. They’re happy to share their personal stories with you.
My Social Security simplifies your life
So many people buzz through extremely busy and complicated schedules these days. A smartphone in one hand, a computer in front of you, and a digital task list that never seems to end. In addition, to complicate things just a little more, there’s another event you need to add to your list — National Simplify Your Life week. This event takes place Aug. 1 through 7. Put it on your calendar so you don’t forget!
Most organized people agree that planning ahead is a great way to simplify your life, whether you’re planning tomorrow’s schedule, next summer’s vacation, or your retirement.
We have a suggestion that can help you simplify your life when it comes to Social Security. If you haven’t already (it’s probably on your task list), open your own personal my Social Security account.
What’s my Social Security? It’s a free, secure, online account that allows you immediate access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, you can use my Social Security to view your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the future retirement, disability and survivor benefits you and your family may receive based on your earnings. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can use my Social Security to check your benefit information, change your address and phone number, change your electronic payment methods, and even obtain a benefit verification letter. Check it out and sign up for my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
After you check your online Social Security Statement, be sure to visit our Retirement Estimator. Like my Social Security, you can use it as many times as you’d like. The Retirement Estimator lets you compute potential future Social Security benefits by changing variables, such as retirement dates and future earnings. You may discover that you’d rather wait another year or two before you retire to earn a higher benefit. To get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.