WASHINGTON, D.C.– Congressman Sam Graves (MO-06) has introduced legislation designed to implement fraud-fighting reforms within the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. According to the most recent trustees report, the SSDI program faces “trust fund depletion in 2016” without gradual reform to protect its finances. Graves’ Disability Insurance Protection and Fraud Prevention Act of 2014 (H.R. 4111) will improve fraud detection and prevention mechanisms in the program and to make slight reforms to protect the future of this important disability assistance program.
“It’s been said that the mark of a wealthy nation is how it cares for the less fortunate in its society,” said Congressman Graves. “Absent serious reforms to the SSDI program, the Social Security trustees have declared they will have no choice but to cut benefit payments by 25% to all disability beneficiaries. This simply does not have to happen. Although this legislation is no panacea for all the ills of the SSDI program, it is a step in the right direction to fixing the finances of this critical program that the disabled depend on in times of need. We can avoid steep and swift cuts down the road if we are willing to make modest reforms now.”
In a January 10, 2014 editorial, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page highlighted the cases of 102 retirees, 80 of whom were former police officers and firefighters in New York City, accused of defrauding the SSDI program of nearly $400 million over a two-plus decade stretch. The editorial cited a report by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) regarding the SSDI program, noting that “[t]he gist of the Senate report is that the Social Security disability program has vague criteria for qualifying and lacks even the barest oversight, which makes it ripe for abuse.” Congressman Graves’ legislation aims to rectify these deficiencies.
“Far too many individuals are able to successfully scam the SSDI program because of insufficient oversight efforts,” Congressman Graves noted. “By increasing the reach of the Cooperative Disability Investigations program, we can both prevent fraud and reclaim millions more dollars from those who game the system.”
Specific highlights of Graves’ legislation include:
· Expansion of Anti-Fraud Program: The Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) program works with state/local law enforcement agencies to pool resources and prevent fraud in SSDI, providing $17 dollars in savings for every $1 dollar invested in FY’13, with billions saved over the past decade. This bill would expand the CDI program from 25 offices to at least 54 across the country, in order to reduce fraud and potentially double annual savings to disability programs.
· Updating Disability Criteria Evaluation: the Social Security Administration (SSA) fast-tracks individuals over age 50 for disability benefit approval. This program should be updated to current life expectancy, so as to function as a disability program and not an unemployment program. This bill would update criteria to current life expectancy, so as to function as a disability program and not an unemployment program.
· Establishing Pilot Projects for Structural Reform: SSDI is in need of 21st century reform that encourages a return to work. This bill would direct SSA to create demonstration projects to focus on early intervention and provide incentives to certain qualified applicants to forego disability cash benefits and get wage supports with part-time work. They would be directed to allow states to reform their funding formulas in ways similar to the late 1980s and early ‘90s to reform welfare programs; these changes led to the 1996 federal welfare reform. This proposal would direct SSA to design demonstration projects using the parameters described in the legislation, and make recommendations to Congress for program changes.