NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SSI Vulnerable To Fraud And Abuse

September 20, 1999

Nearly two-thirds of people collecting Supplemental Security Income benefits from the government claim disabilities that experts say can be readily faked. A report from the General Accounting Office says the SSI program is "vulnerable" to "fraud and abuse."

  • Of the 4,051,310 adults and children receiving SSI checks, 22.2 percent say they have psychoses and neuroses -- ailments that are difficult to verify.
  • Another 25.7 percent claim they are mentally retarded.
  • Alleged schizophrenia sufferers comprise 8.5 percent of the total.
  • Some 7.6 percent claim physical ailments such as back disorders; muscle, ligament and fascia disorders; sprains and strains; epilepsy; vision problems; and chronic pulmonary insufficiency -- all of which can be feigned.

These add up to 64 percent of all SSI claimants.

The GAO report says that thousands of recipients "used suspicious medical providers to gain access to the program." Ninety-six percent of the 158 program officials interviewed said they believed that "middlemen," especially interpreters, were continuing to play a significant role in SSI fraud and abuse.

A single person on SSI receives $500 a month, plus Medicaid. The combined cost of these benefits over 10 years is $122,000 per person. SSI cost taxpayers $29 billion in 1998.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "Many SSI Recipients May Be Faking," Washington Times, September 19, 1999.


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