Delores Holton, a 60 year old resident of Fairview Heights in Southwestern Illinois, recently pled guilty to a single count of concealing material from the Social Security Administration. Ms. Holton, who had been receiving Social Security Disability benefits from 2002 through 2008, was using two separate Social Security numbers in order to conceal relevant information from the SSA. She faces sentencing in January of 2013 and could face up to five years in prison in addition to being required to pay back six years’ worth of disability benefits.
It is unclear exactly how Ms. Holton used the additional Social Security number to defraud the SSA, though there are several possible scenarios of how additional Social Security numbers have been used by others to perpetrate fraud. One possibility is that she earned income under one Social Security number while simultaneously collecting Social Security disability benefits under another number.
In any case, records show that Ms. Holton had previously been caught using a second Social Security number and had been warned to stop doing so. She has even agreed, in writing, to stop using multiple social Security numbers and to only use the one under which she was getting disability benefits at the time she was initially caught using a second number (over two years ago).
Considering that the SSA had given her a warning and continued to pay disability benefits to Ms. Holton, it is unlikely that she can expect a great deal of clemency. The government, in light of recent scrutiny, has been cracking down on abuses of the Social Security disability programs, and intentional fraud is not likely to be passed over lightly.
The truly sad part of this is that Social Security disability programs provide a way for people to earn income while still receiving disability benefits. There are even programs designed to help disabled persons to retrain for work which they would be able to do with their disability. These programs often allow recipients to continue receiving some or all of their disability benefits while transitioning into a new career appropriate to their disabling condition. Generally, disabled persons benefit from a trial period, allowing them some time to make sure that they are, in fact able to function in the new job while keeping their disability case current (saving them from having to re-apply and start over).
Like any other kind of government expenditure, funding for Social Security Disability programs has limits. When people cheat the system, they hurt those who legitimately need the disability benefits. This kind of fraud is one of the major reasons why applications for disability benefits meet with such a high degree of scrutiny before being approved.
If you are aware of someone who is defrauding the Social Security Administration, report it. Reports of abuse and fraud can be made anonymously to the SSA. Reports of fraud can be made to the SSA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or by mail at:
Social Security Fraud Hotline
PO Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235