CHARLESTON – One of life’s little pleasant surprises is reaching into an old coat pocket and finding a few misplaced dollars.
Even better is keeping millions of dollars in the pockets of taxpayers, which is exactly what my office’s Social Security disability fraud unit was created to do.
Since the Mountain State established a Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit in December 2015, it has netted $4.4 million in savings from benefits not paid to those who would try to cheat the system. Our efforts prevent stealing from taxpayers and mucking up the works for those who are in genuine need.
The Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit (CDIU) generated $1.9 million in savings in the first quarter of 2017 — nearly as much as the total savings generated in the unit’s entire first year.
The CDIU is staffed by investigators and an analyst from our office whose salaries are covered by the federal government. They work diligently to reduce Social Security fraud in partnership with the Social Security Administration, its Office of the Inspector General and the state’s Disability Determination Section.
The unit assists in making informed decisions and ensuring payment accuracy, a formula that will continue to generate significant savings into the future. The return on our invested time and effort, in just a few months, has been tremendous.
Those who lie about having a disability rob the poor, disabled and retired.
Rather than keeping the money in Social Security coffers, these thieves contribute to the potential exhaustion of available funds for those properly receiving benefits. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are spent on those who need it most.
Just as our disability unit demonstrates, I am also committed to reducing fraud, waste and abuse in all areas of government.
As a state, we also need to more aggressively pursue Medicaid fraud.
Our state’s approach has left millions on the table for far too long. For instance, a September 2013 performance audit revealed 171 backlogged referrals within the existing unit operated by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Of those cases, 23 were dated as far back as five years with reports that suspicious billings can remain uninvestigated for years.
That is totally unacceptable.
It is the prime reason why I continue to urge the Legislature to transfer our state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to our office. Such a move would fix deficiencies in the existing unit and bring West Virginia in line with the rest of the nation as 43 of 50 units are housed within the state Attorney General’s office.
The potential savings in rooting out Medicaid fraud, coupled with the tremendous kickoff to our disability unit, can lead to significant budgetary savings and greater economic development for West Virginia.
The $4.4 million in savings already generated by our disability unit demonstrates our aggressive approach to fighting fraud works.
By continuing this crucial fight we secure the disability program for those who need it the most, while also identifying and punishing those who would steal from their neighbors.
Our success helps keep millions of dollars in taxpayers’ pockets. That is one of the ways we will help West Virginia reach her full potential.
Morrisey is West Virginia's Attorney General.