Letter to the Editor: Fraud is Rare in the Social Security Disability System
I recently read an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette entitled “Tangled in Fraud Probe, 100s Face Loss of Disability Checks.” As a Social Security Disability Attorney who has handled thousands of Social Security Disability claims, I felt it was important to point out that fraud is actually rare in the Social Security Disability system. The article in the Gazette discussed the fact that an attorney from Kentucky named Eric Conn has been accused of fabricating evidence with the help of a doctor in an effort to get benefits for Social Security Disability claimants. In the relevant cases, an Administrative Law Judge is also accused of working with attorney Conn to push through claims and pay benefits. All three individuals are being prosecuted as a result of this situation. Hundreds of individuals who were awarded disability benefits in these cases are now being required to prove they are disabled again to continue receiving benefits. I believe it is important to point out that good attorneys gather credible evidence from treating care providers including opinions regarding limitations that would interfere with an individual performing full time gainful employment. Good Judges review cases fairly and apply the law when making decisions. The Social Security Disability system is conservative and strong evidence is needed to prove that an individual is disabled. It is unfortunate that an attorney, doctor, and Judge may have worked together to commit fraud, however; this is a rare situation that is not representative of how Social Security Disability claims are handled and decided.
The article includes a quote by US Senator Coburn of Oklahoma indicating, “Here is what the law says: if you can do any job in the economy, you don’t qualify for disability.” I think it is important to point out that Senator Coburn’s statement is absolutely wrong. A large percentage of individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits are 50 years of age or older. Individuals who are between the ages of 50 and 54 often receive benefits because they cannot perform their past work, are limited to sedentary work, and cannot be transferred to skilled or semi-skilled sedentary work. For individuals who have reached the age of 55, a light work restriction can result in disability benefits being awarded if they cannot perform their past work or be transferred to skilled or semi-skilled light work.
In closing, I believe it is important to point out that individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits in vast majority deserve the benefits they are receiving. The rules related to Social Security Disability are drafted to take into account an individual‘s age, education, and work history and often do not require someone to prove that they cannot perform any job in the economy to collect benefits. Based on my experience representing Social Security Disability claimants for more than 20 years, I can state with certainty that there is a limited amount of fraud in the Social Security Disability system.
Attorney Samuel K. Silverman