When the Social Security Administration (SSA) detects a misstatement of any information on a claim for benefits, says our Massachusetts Social Security lawyer, it may charge the claimant with criminal fraud.
Our Massachusetts Social Security lawyer defines a material fact as one on which the SSA relies to determine eligibility for benefits. Supplemental security income (SSI) or Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) claimants commit fraud if they misrepresent or cause anyone else to misrepresent a material fact. Examples:
- A claimant for SSI benefits for those with low income and little or negative low net worth, owned a vehicle of substantial value that made him/her ineligible for SSI, so she intentionally withheld and concealed this information so he/she could be awarded benefits by deceit.
- A claimant filed for disability caused by depression and anxiety. To make the claim seem convincing, he/she misled health care providers by exaggerating how much the symptoms were disabling in daily life. From these exaggerations, health care providers prepared reports that unduly dramatized the claim.
- When a claimant filed for disability, he/she stated that he/she had attended school only through the sixth grade although in fact he/she had completed study for and had received a general equivalency diploma. The claimant thought a record of less education would improve chances for benefits.
The SSA determines SSI or SSDI eligibility from claimant earnings. Claimants who misrepresent or lie about their earnings to qualify for benefits unfairly commit fraud. Examples:
- A self-employed claimant applied for disability from a head injury. Because the claimant had failed to pay Social Security tax, he/she could not receive SSDI. This claimant would be ineligible for SSI because the self-employment net earnings exceeded the SSI limit, effectively hiding what was earned from the SSA.
- An SSDI claimant told the SSA he/she had not been able to work since February 2009 but in fact had worked until as recently as June 2012, when the claim was filed. The claimant misrepresented work history to get more back pay credit for disability benefits.
Relevance to Claim
Claimants commit fraud if they fail to report anything that would affect claims for their own disability benefits or for benefits for someone else. Examples:
- An unmarried claimant received SSI benefits. When married, the spouse’s income made the claimant no longer SSI-eligible. Aware that the changed marital status makes one ineligible for further benefits, the claimant decided not to inform the SSA of the marriage.
- A claimant received both Social Security and state government retirement benefits from a spouse’s employers. When the spouse died, the death was not reported to the SSA because the information would end the entitlement to the dual benefit payments.
- A claimant received SSDI payments as representative payee for a resident minor child. When the child moved out, the claimant did not report the relocation because not wanting to continue to receive the benefits. A Massachusetts Social Security lawyer advised him to avoid trouble by making a report.
- A representative payee for a disabled brother decided not to notify the SSA of the brother’s death so he/she could continue to receive SSDI benefits.
On some claims, the SSA designates representative payees to receive disability payments on behalf of actual recipients. The law requires representative payees to use the payments for the wants and needs of the true recipients, and they commit fraud by using them for any other purposes. Examples:
- A father serving as his disabled daughter’s designated representative payee used the payments to reduce his personal debt rather than purchase necessities for his daughter.
- A representative payee for her disabled mother used the payments for clothing, school supplies, and extra-curricular materials for her children instead of for expenses necessary for her mother’s proper care.
Social Security Numbers
Whoever to qualify for benefits or to increase the benefit amount knowingly uses false information to open a Social Security account or to establish a Social Security record or uses a false Social Security number or a number issued to someone else commits fraud. Examples:
- An individual living in the USA illegally with no Social Security number could not file a claim for SSDI benefits. To qualify for benefits, he used a phony birth certificate to file for a Social Security number which, when issued, he misused on an SSDI claim.
- An individual was ineligible for SSDI benefits because there was an unserved felony warrant for her arrest. She filed for SSDI benefits after stealing her former boyfriend’s Social Security number.
For conviction of Social Security fraud, fines can be as much as $10,000, imprisonment as long as 15 years, or both a fine and a term of imprisonment depending on the violation(s). Prosecution for Social Security fraud may proceed even if the SSA never makes any payment of benefits fraudulently claimed.
For conviction the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to defraud. Anyone accused of fraud or of lying on an application should contact a Massachusetts Social Security lawyer for help right away.
Help from a Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer
Skilled, experienced Massachusetts Social Security lawyer Gerard Palma offers assistance with SSDI and SSI claims for clients unable to work for reasons of health or long-term disability. The process for disability benefits can be slow and arduous, and most claimants find the substantive law and SSA procedure complex and confusing. The Palma Law Offices take Social Security claims very seriously, for these benefits are often family financial essentials.
Naturally, new clients have concerns about costs that they may not be able to pay for a skilled, experienced disability attorney. In fact retaining a Massachusetts Social Security lawyer at the Palma Law Offices for representation and assistance on SSA claims is the best investment claimants ever make. The terms are no money down and no fee at all unless the claim succeeds with an award of benefits.
The Palma Law Offices serve clients for contingency fees paid as portions of retroactive benefits recovered. No part of the fee comes from the regular monthly award. The usual amount is 25 percent of the retroactive (past due) benefits SSA awards on the claim subject to a maximum fee.
Contact the Palma Law Offices today at (888) 295-4955 for a free consultation with a Massachusetts Social Security lawyer, case evaluation, and answers to all questions.