How do you avoid being accused of Social Security disability (SSD) fraud when you have an “invisible” disorder like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or some other form of mental illness?
It isn’t easy these days to escape scrutiny — partially because SSD fraud is often a hot political topic and partially because actual fraud can happen. Right now, the agency is still reeling from an investigation into widespread fraud in a region of Kentucky that involved a network of professionals who successfully deceived Social Security for decades. Thousands of disability recipients in the area have found themselves under an investigative microscope — the truly disabled alongside the frauds — waiting for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to sort out who is genuinely entitled to benefits and who is not.
In addition, the agency has created more Cooperative Disability Investigation (CDI) units, which are designed to find and prosecute healthy people who are collecting disability benefits. Unfortunately, it takes very little to start an investigation — you can be the victim of a neighbor with a grudge, a hostile ex or a jealous relative who thinks you somehow have it easy. All it takes is a anonymous report to start an investigation against you.
How, then, can you avoid being accused of fraud when your disability isn’t the kind that shows up on an MRI or some other physical test? Follow these tips:
— Make regular follow-up appointments with your treating physician and always discuss your mental symptoms so that they are documented.
— Take your psychiatric medication as prescribed. If it doesn’t work, let your doctor know that it isn’t working and be willing to try new medications.
— Don’t minimize your symptoms. Make sure that your treatment providers know that you are still experiencing problems.
— Don’t tell your neighbors the source of your income and don’t discuss it on social media.
— Don’t feel that you have to justify your disability benefits to anyone.
— Recognize that you could be under surveillance at any time, so be conscious of any stranger who asks unusual or probing questions.
— Seek ongoing mental health therapy or joint a support group to show that your condition still bothers you.
As always, if you find out that you are the subject of a disability fraud investigation, promptly find an attorney.
Source: Office of the Inspector General, “Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI),” accessed June 08, 2017