CHARLESTON – Almost $1.2 million in projected savings has been generated for the state and federal governments in the six months that a disability fraud unit has operated, a spokesman for West Virginia's attorney general said in a recent interview.
The Charleston Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Unit is a partnership between the the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and the Social Security Administration. Projected savings amounts to $508,524 from the Charleston CDI and $690,408 in Social Security and related federal and state savings, according to figures provided by Curtis Johnson, press secretary for the Attorney General's Office.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
CDI Units, of which there are 32 in the nation, bring together state and federal offices that don't always work together, Johnson said during an email interview with The West Virginia Record.
"CDI Units bring together personnel from Social Security, its Office of Inspector General, state Disability Determination Services and local law enforcement agencies to analyze and investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims, to help resolve questions of potential fraud in some cases many instances before benefits are ever paid," Johnson said. "CDI Unit efforts help disability examiners make informed decisions, ensure payment accuracy, and generate significant taxpayer savings, for both federal and state programs."
Morrisey said he is quite satisfied with the results. "We're really pleased that we've been able to, really, not only save a lot of money in terms of fraud but, really, to begin to change the culture in our state," Morrisey said in a video statement about the program. It's so important that these monies go to the people who actually need the benefit. That's the purpose of this."
The Charleston CDI Unit opened in December to investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims and to help resolve any questions about what may turn out to be potential fraud. In many cases, a fraud determination is made before any benefits are paid out.
"Such thievery comes at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer and jeopardizes a critical safety net for those who depend upon Social Security now and into the future," Johnson said. "By exaggerating or lying about one’s disability, the undeserving take from the poor, disabled and retired. They also contribute to the potential exhaustion of Social Security’s Disability Trust Fund, which just this past fall needed an act of Congress to maintain solvency past 2016."
Nationwide, CDI projections show units have saved Social Security programs $3.3 billion since the program’s inception in 1997, Johnson said. "That’s in addition to another $2.2 billion in savings for related programs," he said.
However, the program isn't just a gotcha for fraud perpetrators, Johnson said. "The unit’s report helps others make informed decisions and ensure payment accuracy, a formula that generates significant taxpayer savings for federal and state programs," he said.
Members of the public who think they might know about a case of disability fraud may report their suspicions online via the Social Security Fraud Hotline; over the phone at (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday; or in snail mail to Social Security, PO Box 17768, Baltimore, MD, 21235.