The Social Security Administration's inspector general has reportedly launched an investigation into potential fraud regarding several hundred recent Social Security Disability applications made by residents of Puerto Rico. The probe is part of an ongoing effort from the SSA to determine whether disability fraud is a widespread problem in the U.S. commonwealth.
According to the SSA inspector general, the most recent investigation is in response to an allegation of mass fraud in Puerto Rico. Several months ago, a pharmaceutical plant closed in the commonwealth, leaving 300 people without jobs. Almost all of those 300 then applied for Social Security Disability benefits, using medical evidence provided by a single doctor who does not live close to the plant.
The probe is just one facet of a larger investigation into potential SSD fraud in Puerto Rico. The inquiry began after a Wall Street Journal article reported on the unusually high number of SSD recipients in the commonwealth.
While SSD is a federal program, the decision of how and whether to grant benefits to individual applicants is largely left up to the individual states, and different states naturally have different acceptance rates. However, the majority of local governments accept applicants into the program at relatively similar rates, with one exception. Puerto Rico regularly accepts more SSD applicants than any other location in the country.
In 2010, 63 percent of SSD applicants in Puerto Rico were accepted into the program, which is four percent higher than the highest acceptance rates for a state in the U.S. In addition, of the 10 U.S. ZIP codes with the highest number of SSD beneficiaries, nine are in Puerto Rico. Further, the territory's 00725 ZIP code is home to more beneficiaries than any other part of the country.
We will continue to update our blog with any new developments.
Source: Wall Street Journal, "Puerto Rico Disability Claims Probed," Damian Paletta, Sept. 12, 2011