Audit Warns Of Potential SSI Fraud
Loose oversight of a federal program for children with disabilities is opening the door for potential fraud, an audit finds, with some families claiming that all of their kids should qualify.
A new report from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General suggests that the children’s Supplemental Security Income program, which is designed to help low-income families of kids with disabilities, is vulnerable.
Investigators found that records from the Social Security Administration – which oversees the program – were insufficient to determine how many families claimed benefits for multiple children. However, the audit spotted numerous red flags in a review of 42 families across four states that were each receiving SSI benefits for four or more children with mental impairments.
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One father received benefits for all eight of his kids, totaling some $77,000 per year, the audit found.
In another case, five children in a single household all applied for SSI on one day and were approved. And, in a separate circumstance, four children in the same household were all approved for SSI before reaching the age of 1.
“We recognize that more than one child in a household may have legitimate disabilities; however, we believe SSA should consider households with multiple children applying for, or receiving, SSI for mental impairments as high-risk,” wrote Steven Schaeffer, assistant inspector general for audit.
The inspector general’s report warns that some families “may have withheld medication, told a child not to speak or coached a child to ‘act up’ to improve their chances of obtaining SSI payments.”
Investigators are recommending that Social Security take various steps to better track and monitor households with multiple children receiving benefits.
In response to the report, the agency wrote that it is “committed to combatting fraud” and considers many factors in flagging such activity including the presence of multiple family members claiming disability benefits.