Tag: Benefits

Feds Overpaid $371.5 Million In Benefits To Disability Recipients

Social Security Administration Overpaid $371.5 Million In Disability Benefits – Washington Free Beacon

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) overpaid individuals a total of $371.5 million in disability benefits from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal 2013, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

These overpayments are cause for concern, as the Social Security’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund is expected to go broke by 2016, according to SSA’s 2015 annual report.

“During a time of growing concern about the solvency of the DI trust fund, it is important for SSA to take every opportunity to help improve the financial status of the program,” the GAO said. The report examined how these concurrent Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) payments affect Disability Insurance (DI) overpayments.

The GAO found that SSA did not detect concurrent FECA payments for about 1,040 individuals during at least one month from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014.

To test SSA’s internal controls, GAO randomly selected 20 beneficiaries for review. In all 20 cases, SSA’s controls failed to detect and prevent overpayments. In seven of the cases, SSA did not detect overpayments for more than a decade, and each of these individuals received $100,000 in overpaid benefits.

One of these seven individuals received FECA benefits in the 1980s and was approved for disability benefits 14 years later in 1994. The GAO found that this individual received $200,000 in overpayments for more than 20 years.

The SSA’s “internal controls” rely on beneficiaries to self-report overpayments.

“SSA officials told us that if beneficiaries do not self-report benefits, there are no system prompts that would alert SSA staff to ask beneficiaries if they are receiving any workers’ compensation benefits, including FECA payments,” states GAO. “SSA officials agreed that relying on beneficiaries to self-report benefits presents a challenge in identifying overpayments related to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits.”

The disability insurance program is the nation’s largest cash assistance program for workers with disabilities. In fiscal year 2014 it paid $142 billion to 11 million beneficiaries.

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Social Security Administration Approved Disability Benefits For Puerto Ricans Because They Can’t Speak English

Feds Consider Puerto Ricans Disabled Because They Speak Spanish – Washington Free Beacon

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) approved disability benefits for hundreds of Puerto Ricans because they do not speak English, despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a predominantly Spanish-speaking territory.

According to a new audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency is misapplying rules that are intended to provide financial assistance to individuals who are illiterate or cannot speak English in the United States. Under the rules, Puerto Ricans are allowed to receive disability benefits for their inability to speak English as well.

“We found the Agency did not make exceptions regarding the English-language grid rules for claimants who reside in Puerto Rico, even though Spanish is the predominant language spoken in the local economy,” the OIG said.

The audit said a person applying for disability in Puerto Rico who cannot speak English “may increase his/her likelihood of receiving disability benefits.”

The agency does not currently have a system in place to keep track of the number of beneficiaries who receive disability insurance for not being able to speak English.

However, the OIG was able to identify 218 cases between 2011 and 2013 where Puerto Ricans were awarded disability due to “an inability to communicate in English.” Furthermore, 4 percent of disability hearings in Puerto Rico involved looking at the individual’s ability to speak, read, write, and understand English.

Though 95 percent of Puerto Ricans speak Spanish at home, according to the rules a Spanish-speaking nurse in Puerto Rico would be considered “unskilled,” the OIG said.

The SSA told the OIG that the rules are applied one-size-fits-all.

“SSA managers at various disability decision levels stated Social Security is a national program, and the grids must be applied to the national economy, regardless of local conditions,” the audit said.

The SSA takes into account an individual’s education level when considering awarding disability benefits if they do not qualify for medical reasons. Part of the education requirement involves looking at a person’s ability to speak English, to determine whether it limits his ability to find a job.

Last year Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) raised concerns that the Obama administration was broadly applying the education rule under the Social Security Act to allow individuals to receive disability payments solely because they cannot speak English.

He noted that the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) rolls swelled 230 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the U.S. population only grew 9.7 percent.

Former SSA judges have also testified that individuals have been approved for disability in the United States without having to prove they cannot speak English.

The hundreds of Puerto Ricans noted in the OIG’s report have received disability insurance despite a 1987 U.S. District Court ruling that appears to contradict the SSA’s policy. Benefits were denied on the grounds that “it is the ability to communicate in Spanish, not English, that is vocationally important in Puerto Rico.”

“It should be noted, however, that the court explicitly declined to apply this rationale outside of this one case,” the OIG said.

The SSA agreed with the OIG’s recommendations to figure out how many individuals have been “awarded disability based on their inability to communicate in English,” and to “evaluate the appropriateness” of applying the English-speaking rules to Puerto Rico.

The SSA is currently gathering information for a proposed regulation that “could lead to changes” to the English-speaking rule, the agency said.

“Specifically, we are soliciting public comments and supporting research on how the inability to communicate in English affects an individual’s ability to adjust to other work that exists in the national economy,” the SSA said.

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Congressman Jeff Miller: Veterans Benefits Administration Tried To Spy On Investigators (Audio)

Miller: Veterans Benefits Administration Tried To Spy On Investigators – Daily Caller

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House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller told DC-based WMAL Radio on Tuesday about his congressional staffers recently being spied on when they looked into various VA complaints at a regional Veterans Benefits Administration office.

His staff was told on “three different occasions” to go to a specific room to do their work but one VA employee said it wasn’t necessary.

Miller, a Republican from Florida, recounted that the “VBA’s acting director took that employee outside” for several minutes and when they returned, his staff was directed again to the specific room on a different floor.

His staffers discovered the room’s sound and video system were prepared to observe their work while they reviewed case files.

“In that room, both of the mics were hot and the camera itself was activated,” the committee chairman told WMAL host Larry O’Connor.

Miller continued, “My staff said, ‘We’re not going to do it in this room,’ and they requested to be taken to another room.”

VBA relocated the committee staffers after they pushed back about the use of the room.

When Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey was confronted at Monday night’s congressional VA hearing about the spying incident, Miller said that “there was no attempt to deny that it had occurred.”

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Leftist Nightmare Update: Obamacare Costing AOL $7.1M, Forcing Benefits Cuts (Video)

AOL CEO: Obamacare Costing Us $7.1 Million, Forcing Us To Cut Other Benefits – Right Scoop

AOL CEO admitted yesterday that Obamacare is costing his company $7.1 million and thus it is forcing them to make touch choices when it comes to benefit packages. Do they pass along the cost of Obamacare to their employees or do they cut back on their matching program?

Watch:

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Gov. Jindal Moves To Strip Food Stamp Benefits From Welfare Leeches Who Stripped Walmart Shelves Clean

Awesome: GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal Moves To Strip Food Stamp Benefits From Welfare Leeches Who Stripped Walmart Shelves Clean – Weasel Zippers

Feel good story of the day.

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Via Baton Rouge Advocate:

The Jindal administration announced late Wednesday that it is moving to strip food stamps from recipients who took advantage of a technical glitch last month to stock up on free groceries.

The announcement came after U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., pressured state officials to take action by taking away food stamp benefits and forming a task force with local prosecutors to bring criminal charges. Retailers lost money when they allowed food stamp recipients to leave their stores with groceries even though they could not check spending limits. When the transactions were processed later, thousands bounced back because recipients exceeded their food stamp balances.

Smartphone images of empty store shelves and bulging grocery carts at Wal-Marts in Springhill and Mansfield made national news.

The state Department of Children and Family Services said Wednesday that retailers across the state got 12,000 nonsufficient funds messages when the food stamp system came back online. The agency’s spokeswoman, Lindsey deBlieux, said investigations are ongoing to determine how many people took advantage. Retailers could have tried to process transactions multiple times. Recipients also could have made multiple purchases.

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Social Security Judge Collaborated With Lawyer To Improperly Award Benefits To Hundreds Of Applicants

Social Security Judge Accused Of Disability Scheme – Time

A retired Social Security judge in West Virginia collaborated with a lawyer to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants, according to a report released Monday by congressional investigators.

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The report accuses retired administrative law Judge David B. Daugherty of scheming with lawyer Eric C. Conn to approve more than 1,800 cases from 2006 to 2010.

“By 2011, Mr. Conn and Judge Daugherty had collaborated on a scheme that enabled the judge to approve, in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of clients for disability benefits using manufactured medical evidence,” said the report by the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Conn runs a law firm specializing in disability cases in Stanville, Ky., near the West Virginia border. Daugherty, who was a judge based in Huntington, W.Va., retired in 2011 after questions were raised about his relationship with Conn, the report said.

According to the report, the Social Security Administration paid Conn’s firm more than $4.5 million in attorney fees from cases heard by Daugherty from 2006 to 2010. In 2010, Conn was the third highest-paid disability lawyer in the country, the report said.

Investigators reviewed Daugherty’s bank records and found $96,000 in unexplained cash deposits, the report said.

“From 2003 to 2011, Judge Daugherty’s bank records contain regularly occurring cash deposits totaling $69,800, the source of which is unexplained in the judge’s financial disclosure forms,” the report said. “From 2007 to 2011, his daughter’s bank records list similar cash deposits totaling another $26,200. When asked about the $96,000 in cash deposits, Judge Daugherty refused to explain their origin or the source of the funds.”

Neither Daugherty nor Conn could be reached for comment. Both men were scheduled to testify Monday at a committee hearing.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon declined to comment on whether the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe of the matter.

Questions about Daugherty’s relationship with Conn were first raised by The Wall Street Journal in 2011.

Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That’s a 45 percent increase from a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,130.

An additional 8.3 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.

In order to qualify, people are supposed to have disabilities that prevent them from working and are expected to last at least a year or result in death.

Social Security disability claims are first processed through a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies called Disability Determination Services. About two-thirds of initial claims are rejected, according to agency statistics.

If your claim is rejected, you can ask the field office or state agency to reconsider. If your claim is rejected again, you can appeal to an administrative law judge, who is employed by Social Security.

The average processing time for a hearing before a judge is a little longer than a year, according to the agency. Daugherty approved claims for Conn’s clients in as little as 30 days, the report said.

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Boston Marathon Terrorists And Family Received $100,000 In Welfare Benefits

Tsarnaev Family Received $100G In Benefits – Boston Herald

The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance – a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012, the Herald has learned.

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“The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning,” said a person with knowledge of documents handed over to a legislative committee today.

The state has handed over more than 500 documents to the 11-member House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, which today met for the first time and plans to call in officials from the Department of Transitional Assistance to testify.

“I can assure members of the public that this committee will actively review every single piece of information we can find because clearly the public has a substantial right to know what benefits, if any, this family or individuals accused of some horrific crimes were receiving,” said state Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), the committee’s chairman.

Linsky’s committee has requested documents from the DTA, the state’s Medicaid director and Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. But so far the committee has not released the records publicly, citing a privilege the DTA is asserting under state law.

Transitional assistance officials also told the Herald tonight that the agency was conducting its own investigation into whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family ever notified the DTA about his extended trip to Russia, and has since expanded its probe to include a full history of the benefits received by the entire Tsarnaev family.

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Boston Marathon Bomber Received Massachusetts Welfare Benefits

Tamerlan Tsarnaev Got Mass. Welfare Benefits – Boston Herald

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

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State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine – who had converted to Islam – was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.

In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money.

Relatives and news reports have indicated that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s descent into extremist Islam began around 2008 or 2009, when the ethnic Chechen met a convert identified only as “Misha,” began to become more devout, and sought out jihadist and conspiracy theorist websites, and the rabidly anti-Semitic propaganda tract, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

In 2009, he was quoted in a photo essay as saying, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them,” adding that he believed Americans had lost their “values.”

His uncle Ruslan Tsarnaev said it was around that time his nephew gave up drinking and was devoting himself to “God’s business,” while Tamerlan’s mother, now wearing a hijab – an Islamic headscarf – began relating conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to her cosmetology clients that she said her son had told her.

In early 2011, Tamerlan Tsarnaev first came to the attention of the FBI when the Russian FSB intelligence service contacted the U.S. agency to warn that he was suspected of being a dangerous radical and sought information.

“The request stated that it was based on information that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.” The FBI reported finding no “terrorism activity.”

In mid-2011, he was being monitored by the FSB, apparently prompting the FBI contact, ahead of his six-month trip home to Dagestan in 2012, where Time magazine reported he is believed to have attended a notorious radical mosque.

The state did not say when the Tsarnaevs began receiving benefits. But Health and Human Services spokesman Alec Loftus said the Tsarnaevs “were not receiving transitional assistance benefits at the time of the incident,” a reference to the marathon bombing that killed three and injured 260.

Loftus declined to specify what kinds of benefits and the amount of benefits the family received.

Their taxpayer-funded status came to light last night after repeated calls and emails to welfare officials from the Herald. They refused to comment throughout the day, but pressure mounted last night when the Herald started asking lawmakers whether the Department of Transitional Assistance should release the information.

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