During this time of economic crisis and increasing pressures on the Social Security disability program, the Social Security Administration’s inspector general has ramped up efforts to tackle Social Security fraud. One of the most recent targets of this expanding fraud investigation are Puerto Rican applicants.
The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier this year which indicated that it was far easier to obtain an award of Social Security disability benefits in Puerto Rico than it was in other places such as Portland. The average rate of approval in Puerto Rico was 63.4 percent in 2010 compared to places like Arizona, where only 35.6 percent of initial applications were approved. Furthermore Puerto Rico also had nine of the 10 top zip codes for Social Security Disability recipients.
This has led Social Security regulators to believe that there is rampant Social Security disability fraud in the U.S. commonwealth. One of the most suspicious cases involved the closure of a pharmaceutical plant that laid off 300 employees. About 290 of the 300 employees applied for disability benefits shortly after the mass layoff and they were all examined by the same doctor who did not live near the plant. The SSA’s inspector general said that the identity of the doctor could not be learned.
The SSA’s assistant inspector general would not comment on this particular case but said “The office of the inspector general is continuing to pursue any number of fraud allegations in Puerto Rico related to the Social Security disability program.” We will discuss further developments in the probe in tomorrow’s post.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Puerto Rico Disability Claims Probed,” Damian Paletta, Sept. 12, 2011