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William Stoecker / February 25, 2015

Fraud, Waste, and More Fraud

It is no secret that government at every level in America spends far more than it takes in, even though the middle class is being bled white by innumerable confiscatory taxes. One of our biggest problems is the cost of our various entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare and prescription drug coverage. Projected future shortfalls in these programs are referred to as “unfunded liabilities,” generally estimated at about $127 trillion, a sum simply beyond human comprehension. We may need to continue raising the retirement age, or the age of Medicare entitlement, or reduce the amounts paid, at least in the highest brackets, or make the programs means tested, rather like welfare. Also, Social Security began as a pension for the elderly; over the years the government added spouse, widow’s, widower’s, and children’s benefits, and Social Security disability payments…perhaps some of these need to be phased out. None of these are pleasant options (especially for those of us who are elderly and retired). To some extent, the situation might be helped by diverting funds from other wasteful government programs (foreign aid, our support for the UN, all the funding for the EPA and the Department of Education would be good places to start). But cuts need to be made everywhere if we can ever hope to eliminate deficit spending completely.

I spent thirteen years as a Social Security Administration Claims Representative, and six years as an AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) Eligibility Worker for Sacramento County in California, so I can fairly claim to have some hard-won knowledge and insights concerning fraud in these programs; in addition, I dealt regularly with General Assistance and Food Stamp recipients.

Supposedly Social Security Disability and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) disability payments are only made to deserving, truly handicapped people. But I used to interview as many as fifty applicants before seeing even one person in a wheel chair, on crutches, or tapping a white cane. We would interview the claimants, note any observations we were able to make, and send the files to a state agency contracted to make disability determinations. They would review medical records, schedule examinations, and make a determination. If the claim was denied, the allegedly disabled person could file a Request for Reconsideration, and a different examiner would review the file. If that was denied, the claimant could file for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge – not a mere medical doctor, but a lawyer. In a majority of cases, the ALJ would override the findings of the medical professionals and grant aid. If a recipient was later deemed overpaid, even if it was due to fraud, he could appeal that as well, and the ALJ would usually let him keep the extra money.

Let me give you one example that I have never forgotten. Two Gypsy women came into our Social Security office to file for SSI, and, in accordance with their usual practice (all too familiar to us workers), one of them did all the talking while the other flopped about in an attempt to resemble a human vegetable. A few days later, the same pair came in again, reversing their roles, so the talker now became the vegetable, and the former vegetable did all the talking. Of course, we cross-referenced the files, making note of all this, and the medical examiners found no evidence that either woman was impaired in any way – but, on appeal, the ALJ awarded SSI disability payments to both women. As the saying goes, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

At least the people filing for Social Security Disability had paid into the system, which is more than can be said for many of the SSI recipients. And many of them had long criminal records, and many were resident aliens…immigrants who came here to be supported by American taxpayers. It was not that unusual for a murderer, released from prison or from a mental institution, to be awarded SSI because his crimes “proved” that he suffered from mental illness. Then his victim’s surviving family members could pay taxes to support him.

SSI disability payments are also awarded to supposedly disabled children, which makes no sense at all, since disability payments are supposed to replace lost wages, and no one expects ten year olds to work at paying jobs and contribute to the family. I interviewed one middle-aged Black man; he got Social Security Disability (he never showed any visible signs of any impairment), and his wife and their six allegedly disabled children (all of them retarded) got SSI; their total monthly income was over $3000, which, back in 1986, was a sizeable amount, even for a family of eight. Yet this man was continually complaining, filing endless appeals and hearings for no apparent reason, and threatening “racist” employees with the loss of their jobs. We discovered that he was overpaid due to lying about the size of his bank accounts; of course, he was not prosecuted for fraud. In fact, almost no one was ever prosecuted for fraud; when there were, they were seldom convicted, no matter how strong the evidence; and I never saw or heard of anyone going to prison. And this individual filed a hearing and the ALJ decreed that he could keep all the money he had effectively stolen.

Regarding AFDC payments, most people are familiar with the usual right wing clichés about welfare recipients: the women are careless and promiscuous; they make no effort to find work or become educated and trained for a job; many of them have criminal records; they commit fraud on a massive scale. In the majority of cases, all of these clichés are true. Over four generations have been on AFDC as a way of life. Minor daughters of women receiving aid routinely become pregnant by age 14 or earlier and get aid for their own offspring. The absent fathers are usually career criminals, and the minor children are in and out of juvenile hall. The women do not report income as required – income from prostitution, shop lifting, and drug sales, as well as, in rare cases, cash wages for actually working. They do not report as required when their children are out of the home (usually in juvenile hall). All of this is fraud, but, as with SSI, prosecution is rare, convictions rarer, and I never saw anyone go to prison. And County Welfare had its own hearing judges, who almost always allowed the women to keep overpaid money, even if they were overpaid due to fraud. And AFDC recipients also receive food stamps.

All of this matters a great deal today, when something like half of all Americans (and far more than half of the resident aliens) receive at least some benefits of one kind or another from the government, including 46.3 million people on food stamps. Of course, this is really vote fraud, a scheme to buy the votes of welfare parasites with the taxpayers’ money. Never mind that this has destroyed the family structure, especially among those minorities favored by the left, or morally degraded the recipients, or the fact that it is contributing to the bankrupting of our former Republic. Under our present leadership, there is absolutely no chance for meaningful reform.

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