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Lawmakers seek improved security for SSD benefits

Recently, we wrote about the criminal allegations of kidnapping and disability fraud that had been filed against three people in Philadelphia after police found four disabled adults locked in a dirty basement in her home. The horrifying scene was believed to be part of a decades-long scheme to collect the victims' Social Security Disability benefit checks.

Now, following the highly-publicized arrests of those involved in the disability scheme, several federal lawmakers are looking to increase the security and scrutiny of SSD and other Social Security benefit checks that are sent to adults and children with disabilities.

The ringleader of the scheme is believed to be a 50-year-old woman who had previously been convicted of murder. FBI investigators believe that she brought a number of disabled adults into Social Security Administration offices to authorize her as their representative payee. This allowed her to receive their monthly SSD benefit checks.

The representative payee program exists to allow a family member or other trusted person to manage the affairs of recipients who are unable to handle their benefits because of their age or disability. There are rules in place to govern representative payees, such as a requirement that they file a yearly report on how the benefit money is spent, but there is little enforcement of the rules.

In response to the lack of oversight, a group of 14 lawmakers sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office, asking them to evaluate the security and effectiveness of the representative payee program. Hopefully, this will lead to meaningful changes for the over 7.6 million SSD recipients who have their benefits managed by a representative payee.

Source: Associated Press, "Lawmakers seek Social Security check protections," Andrew Miga, Nov. 21, 2011

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