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Social Security Administration expands SSDI protection program

The Social Security Administration has in recent months been experimenting with a pilot program launched not far from Newark.

The Philadelphia-area program was designed to protect disabled and elderly recipients of Social Security benefits. The agency announced earlier this week that the program is to be expanded nationwide.

The program began back in June of 2012 in the aftermath of a widely publicized case involving four mentally disabled people held in a soiled basement so that their benefits could be stolen.

Five people await trial in the matter.

In the pilot program, people who applied to be “representative payees” (people collecting disability benefits on behalf of those who are unable to conduct financial matters) faced extra scrutiny. They were checked to see if they had committed any of a dozen crimes, including fraud, theft of government funds, abuse/neglect, robbery, forgery, ID theft, false imprisonment, human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual assault or murder.

One flaw in the new program might be that SSA employees can’t access FBI criminal records. They rely instead on public records and private databases, which are sometimes incomplete or unreliable.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey says he will urge the agency to do an even better job of flagging suspicious potential payees.

In Philadelphia, 285 potential payees were flagged, though that figure represented less than one percent of all applicants.

Casey said he wants to ensure “that every person who applies to be a representative payee goes through a criminal background check."

While it can be difficult to get an SSDI claim approved – it often involves an appeals process – it’s good to know the agency is improving its efforts to protect disabled Americans.

Source: Philly.com, "Social Security expands background checks," Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, Philadelphia Daily News, March 3, 2014

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