Protecting the integrity of Social Security

Updated 3 years ago by WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
A far greater percentage of West Virginians collect Social Security disability benefits than the rest of the nation. For instance, a 2011 review found 9 percent of the state’s working-age population received benefits as compared to 4.6 percent nationally.

There’s no doubt many have legitimate disabilities, but such a high percentage also suggests some people may be gaming the system. Such a significant problem demands action.
That’s why my office recently partnered with federal authorities to launch a Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit, a first-of-its-kind partnership in West Virginia designed to root out disability fraud before benefits are paid.
The Charleston CDI will consist of two investigators and an analyst from my office. Their salaries will be covered by the federal government as they work alongside representatives from the Social Security Administration, its Office of the Inspector General and the state’s Disability Determination Section.

Certain claims from Social Security or DDS will be investigated and analyzed and then turned over to disability examiners.

The unit’s report will help others make informed decisions and ensure payment accuracy, a formula that generates significant taxpayer savings for federal and state programs.

CDI has a proven track record. In Virginia, federal officials credit a Richmond unit with saving $1 million per month in federal funds and $700,000 in state funds – benefits otherwise awarded without CDI’s investigative work.
Nationwide, CDI projections show units as having saved Social Security programs $3.3 billion since the program’s inception in 1997. That’s in addition to another $2.2 billion in savings for related programs.
The CDI program is one of Social Security’s most successful anti-fraud initiatives and its formation in West Virginia should be a wake-up call for anyone who thinks about stealing from Social Security.
Such thievery comes at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer and jeopardizes a critical safety net for those who depend upon Social Security now and into the future.
While I firmly believe tackling such abuse is critical, those legitimately receiving disability benefits have no reason to worry. In fact, those are the very people we aim to protect.
By exaggerating or lying about one’s disability, the undeserving take from the poor, disabled and retired. They also contribute to the potential exhaustion of Social Security’s Disability Trust Fund, which just this past fall needed an act of Congress to maintain solvency past 2016.
This recent legislation, which involved taking money from Social Security’s retirement fund, represents just a band-aid for a program scheduled to face bankruptcy yet again in 2022.
This extreme action only reinforces the notion that Social Security fraud must be stopped, and now.
Disability fraud has been a generational issue for far too long – one untouched by the West Virginia’s leaders in the past. Fortunately, we are changing that with this unit’s formation. That is why I proudly join a program operating 37 units in 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – this is the beginning of a real cultural change in West Virginia.

I believe these partnerships are crucial for protecting taxpayer funds and reinforcing confidence in the government’s stewardship of this program. It is time for West Virginia to go after fraud more aggressively and reach her potential.
Patrick Morrisey serves as attorney general for West Virginia.
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