CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday asked the West Virginia Legislature to create a special account for the federal government to reimburse the state for investigating Social Security disability benefits abuse, fraud and waste.
Morrisey's office wants West Virginia to become the latest state to create a “Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit,” a program established jointly by the United States Social Security Administration and the SSA Office of Inspector General. But, the Legislature has to create a fund into which the federal government can deposit money to reimburse the costs associated with investigating Social Security scams. The program currently consists of 27 units across the country, covering 23 states and Puerto Rico.
“West Virginia has one of the highest percentages of people receiving Social Security disability benefits in the nation," Morrisey said. "Our state also ranks among the highest in the nation for per capita Social Security disability payments. The goal of this program is to ensure that money is being spent to assist citizens who really need the help, rather than those who try to take advantage of the system."
If the fund is created, Morrisey said his office would like to hire up to four investigators through the completely reimbursed federal CDIU program. The office is requesting authority to spend up to $610,000 annually from the fund.
“All costs associated with running the unit would be completely reimbursed by the federal government, specifically the Social Security Administration,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said if the fund is approved, the office would work with and assist federal authorities. Any prosecutions stemming from investigations would be handled by the Department of Justice.
“We have seen the news stories of late about Social Security disability fraud and prosecutions in our state, and we believe this unit would serve a critical need,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey's office also asked the Legislature to provide an additional $341,362 to create a Medicaid Fraud Unit that will work with the Department of Health and Human Resources to investigate instances of Medicaid abuse, fraud, and waste. A 2013 audit of the DHHR’s Medicaid Fraud Unit found that it had a significant backlog of cases, including suspicious billing concerns and improper payments to providers.
“We believe the creation of a Medicaid Fraud Unit in our Office, consisting of three attorneys, would end up saving the state far more than the expense of running the unit,” Morrisey said. “Medicaid costs the state more than $900 million a year, and the federal government’s share of our state’s Medicaid cost exceeds $2.5 billion.
"We want to ensure that money is going to provide our low-income residents and families with the medical help they need and is not being wasted or mismanaged by providers and others. We believe the creation of this unit would provide a valuable asset to the state.”