In most cases it will take a Social Security Disability applicant two years or more to receive an approval for Social Security Disability benefits. However, that was not the case for some of the Social Security Disability applicants who were dealing with Margarita Diaz, 40, a claims representative at the Social Security Administration office in Jersey City.
In most cases it takes at least six months before a Social Security Disability applicant can begin receiving disability payments from the Social Security Administration. In some cases, when an individual is suffering from a severe disability and is likely to be approved for benefits, the SSA will award payments right away, even before a decision is made regarding that individual's SSDI or SSI claim. These payments are referred to as presumptive disability payments, and they are intended to provide financial assistance to those who are likely to be awarded benefits due to the severity of their disabling condition.
As a part of her job responsibilities, Diaz was responsible for determining who was eligible for presumptive disability payments and she had access to the computer system that is used to process disability applications for the Social Security Administration. Previously, Diaz had plead guilty to bribing a public official. She has also been found guilty of accepting bribes from August 2008 to January of 2009. In exchange for financial compensation, Diaz would process an application for presumptive disability payments and would award these payments to individuals who did not actually qualify for them. During the course of this time, Ms. Diaz accepted approximately $25,000 in illegal payments on behalf of herself and others.
As a result of her crime, Margarita Diaz was sentenced to 24 months in prison. She is also facing two years of supervised release once she gets out.
Unfortunately, crimes like the ones Margarita Diaz committed are always at the expense of the American taxpayers. Taxpayer dollars fund the Social Security Disability program and stealing from the program is like stealing directly from the American workers who pay into the Social Security Disability program. Fortunately, Diaz's crime did not go uncaught or unpunished.
While it is disheartening to see that someone like Diaz would abuse her position for financial gain, it is encouraging that the activity was caught, investigated and brought to light. One would hope that Diaz will serve as an example to others who would consider similar crimes.
While there are other cases of Social Security Disability fraud being investigated and tried on a regular basis, the good news is that the Social Security Administration is on the lookout for such crimes and when the crimes do occur, the SSA does not try to hide them or cover them up. The Diaz case is just one example of how the SSA is serious about protecting taxpayer dollars from being spent unjustly.