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SSI fraud highlights importance of updating paperwork

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made several programs available to both parents and children for the purpose of protecting families with children who suffer from physical and mental disabilities. For parents, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits may be granted to help pay for the medical and other costs associated with caring for a child with a disability. In addition, such children may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in recognition of the potential for decreased work hours and wages for a parent who has taken time off to care for a disabled child.

Regardless of the program, all of the benefit income will necessarily go to the child's parent, who will ideally use it to benefit their disabled child and the family as a whole. However, this is not always the case, as was shown when a mother was charged with Social Security fraud after allegedly pocketing the more than $14,000 in SSI back pay that was intended for the care of her son.

According to the SSA, the 10-year-old boy was awarded $14,643 in back pay last February. At some point after the award but before the money was actually distributed, a local court awarded custody of the boy and his siblings to his father, instead of his mother with whom he had been living previously.

The parents failed to document the custody change on the boy's Social Security paperwork, and when the money was eventually distributed, it was send via direct-deposit to the mother's bank account, as she was the previously designated payee for the benefit payments. She did not notify the father that she had received the money, and allegedly spent it on items like a car, furniture and a vacation.

When the father questioned the SSA about the missing money, it started an investigation, and soon discovered that the mother had kept the money improperly. After she failed to return the benefits on multiple occasions, she was arrested and charged with felony theft. Her trial date is set for next month, at which time she may receive up to three years in prison.

Source: The Herald-Argus, "Woman charged in Social Security Fraud", Stan Maddux, 27 January 2011

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