The Social Security Administration is the federal agency created to provide for millions of elderly and disabled individuals in the United States. In doing so, the SSA must also protect the funds that are used to pay Social Security benefits, including Social Security Disability, so money is available to those who need and qualify for assistance.
It is estimated that $11 billion in SSD benefits are being paid to people who no longer qualify - though numbers like these are often skewed by parties on both sides of the issue pushing their agendas. Nonetheless, to qualify for SSD benefits, you must prove that you are disabled and unable to work because of your disability. You must also show that you cannot return to work for at least 12 months because of your disability or that your disability is terminal.
Once you obtain SSD benefits, the SSA is required to periodically evaluate your eligibility for future payments. These reviews are not intended to take benefits away from those entitled, but to confirm that taxpayer money is being properly directed to individuals qualified for SSD benefits and to reduce Social Security fraud.
Understanding Social Security Fraud
Fraud, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, occurs when an individual receives benefits to which he or she is not entitled, including overpayments. Once SSD benefits are awarded, the recipient must notify the SSA of any changes affecting his or her eligibility. Unreported changes in the recipient's situation are common grounds for fraud and can include:
- Recovering from your disability
- Returning to work
- Earning more money than is allowed for continued receipt of benefits
- Receiving or applying for disability benefits from another source
- Being institutionalized in a long-term care facility or prison
- Changing the primary caregiver of a disabled child
- Moving overseas
In addition, the death of the recipient will impact SSD benefit eligibility. The SSA should be made aware of the recipient's death as soon as possible; any overpayment must be returned or repaid. Although surviving family members may be eligible for a survivor benefit, that benefit is not the same as the SSD payment.
When a person is found to have committed Social Security fraud, he or she will be ordered to pay back the funds that he or she was not eligible to receive, and may face fines and/or prison time. Working with experienced Social Security Disability attorneys like those at Midwest Disability can help you fully understand how changes in your particular circumstances may change your eligibility for benefits and what must be reported to the SSA.
Maintaining Your Benefits
Social Security Disability benefits are a safeguard for those who cannot provide for themselves because of physical or mental conditions. You should avoid accepting SSD payments if your personal circumstances change to the point that you are no longer eligible for benefits; doing so is fraudulent. If you have questions about your continuing eligibility for benefits, a Social Security Disability lawyer can help you steer clear of Social Security fraud.