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Woman bilks system, gets mental disability benefits for years


As last week's blog post explained, people in the Houston area may need to rely on Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits for a variety of mental conditions, including anxiety disorders. However, the requirements for getting disability benefits are supposed to be stringent. In some cases, this means that people who need benefits may have a tough time getting them. On the other hand, the requirements are also meant to ensure that only those people who are truly in need get the benefits.

A disturbing news story is an example of how an abuse of the SSD benefits system can trickle down to affect other people. A 53-year-old Texas woman and her two sons, one aged 27 and the other 29, allegedly faked their mental illnesses so that they could collect SSD benefits for mental disability.

Nearly 40 years ago, the woman applied for benefits, claiming that she had schizophrenia. The Social Security Administration (SSA) approved that application and she received benefits until 2004 when the SSA stopped her payments because it suspected that she was faking the mental illness. But, she won an appeal of that decision, and the benefits were reinstated. Only recently did the government again discontinue her benefits.

Although the woman claimed that she was unable to read or write and was homebound, government investigators reportedly watched her driving a car, running errands and talking on her cellular phone. As a result of the investigation, the government filed a criminal complaint and arrested the woman. Authorities also arrested her two sons after finding that the mother falsely claimed that one of them had mental retardation and the other had autism. The woman had been receiving benefits for her sons since 2001 and 2002 respectively.

In total, the family received almost $462,000 in SSD benefits for conditions that they did not have. In addition to the criminal element of their actions, they were potentially depriving other deserving people of much needed benefits. All of the SSD programs are strapped for resources, meaning that anyone who is fraudulently obtaining benefits may be depriving others who truly need help.

The other implication of fraudulent SSD activity is that it could potentially make the SSA even more selective in granting benefits for mental illness or any other disability. Thus, people in Texas who are filing for disability benefits or appealing a denial, should understand the process and how to give themselves the best chance of obtaining benefits.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "Feds: Arlington family faked mental illness for 37 years to collect social security," Kevin Krause, Oct. 1, 2015

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