“We keep putting people on disability who are not truly disabled,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Tuesday at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled, Social Security Administration Oversight: Examining the Integrity of the Disability Determination Appeals Process. Coburn, who also is a medical doctor, was called to testify about disability-payment reform for the House-held hearing.
“Currently, 8.4 million people are enrolled in SSI [Supplemental Security Income for the disabled], at a cost to the federal government of nearly $56.5 billion in 2013,” according to a June 10 Oversight Committee report. “The number of participants in SSI has nearly doubled over the last 25 years.
Growth in SSI enrollment also increases Medicaid spending since individuals enrolled in SSI are automatically eligible for Medicaid.” “Most of us know that the Social Security disability trust fund is in precarious shape,” Senator Coburn told the committee. “11 million Americans who presently are in need of those payments will receive a cut.”
Coburn, along with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), reviewed random disability cases from Social Security from three different offices. “What we found is alarming,” Coburn said. “What we found is 25% of the cases should never have been approved by benefits based on Social Security’s own rules and procedures. So, we had 25% where their own administrating law agents didn’t follow their own rules.”
A disability fraud case in Huntington, West Virginia, evoked concern for Coburn. “This got our attention because this office processed more disability cases than any other office in the nation,” he said. “And so when we looked at it, much of that could be accounted to one attorney, Eric C. Conn.” “In spite of practicing in a town of 500 people, he had become the third highest payment Social Security receiving over $4 million dollars in agency fees in 2010,” said Coburn. “When we looked more closely at Mr. Conn’s operation, we found reasons for serious concern. Some of what Mr. Conn did was outright fraud. At times he was simply able to exploit loopholes in the program. Both of those should be a concern for us in Congress, given the current nature of the trust fund.”Comment: I think I know something about this as I have a genuine handicap AND I WORK for a living.