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Judge says more transparency can prevent SSD scams

A few weeks ago we discussed the case of several retired New York City firefighters and police officers who allegedly defrauded the Social Security disability system. Many people were rightfully outraged that these individuals were all able to obtain benefits without actually having conditions that warranted them. So, what's wrong with the system? What is missing that allowed them to fool the people who reviewed their cases?

In a recent article in the New York Times, an administrative law judge shared his thoughts on how the Social Security system needs to change in order to prevent such schemes from happening. Transparency, he said, is key to creating a system that serves those -- and only those -- in need.

First, he argued, administrative law judges should be allowed to look at an applicant's Internet presence. Right now, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are off limits when reviewing an application. Had someone looked at the Facebook profiles of the retired police officers and firefighters who are now on trial, they would have seen photos that proved that their claims of being unable to leave the house were false.

Another major problem, the administrative law judge says, is that those running the Social Security Administration appear to be more concerned with quantity than quality. The goal, it seems, is to rule on as many cases as possible. Getting it right is less of a priority.

In the wake of a serious scam like the one that happened in New York City, placing blame is often the first reaction. However, it seems clear that the system needs to be changed in some major ways to ensure that those who truly need disability benefits are the ones to get them. For now, working with an attorney is a good way to make sure you are making the best case possible for receiving disability benefits.

Source: The New York Times, "Fixing Disability Courts," D. Randall Frye, Jan. 19, 2014

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