Tahlequah Daily Press


January 10, 2014

Disability fraud: Bad apples in the Big Apple

TAHLEQUAH — Given the lingering legacy of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, it was bound to happen: Someone make a bogus claim of damages incurred, and expect the rest of the taxpayers to foot the bill.

In the wake of those traumatic events, Americans put police officers and firefighters on pedestals, and for good reason: Many of them risked their lives trying to save their fellow citizens. Nearly 400 died in the immediate aftermath, and others died later or became sick from exposure to toxins.

Few would argue those who were injured shouldn’t be cared for, or that fellow Americans shouldn’t rush to the aid of fallen heroes and their families. But the 80 retired cops, firefighters and others who took advantage of this national tragedy to enrich themselves deserve the harshest punishment the law can provide.

These “civil servants” were part of a behemoth disability fraud scheme that started as far back as the 1980s.  The group of 9/11 perpetrators, and a few dozen before them, were claiming Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits of $30,000 to $50,000 a year, purportedly because they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression that rendered them unable to work or, in some cases, even venture from their homes. But a two-year probe revealed the depth of their avarice.

Though they masqueraded as “heroes,” they turned out to be deadbeats who were perfectly capable of holding jobs. The evidence was in their propensity for taking judo lessons, flying helicopters and jet-skiing.

A few SSDI staffers cooked up the scam, going as far as teaching the deadbeats how to feign mental and psychiatric stress. Among the organizers were a retired NYPD cop, a detective’s union honcho, a pension adviser, and perhaps not surprisingly, a lawyer.

 As state budgets are tightened and officials look for ways to get folks off state entitlement programs, those fraudulently clinging to the taxpayer teat will find other sanctuaries. Increasingly, SSDI is becoming one of those havens. Here and there, slick-tongued shysters and unethical doctors have colluded to get as many people on SSDI as possible.

Some states have hired consulting agencies to help choral people into the disability pasture. It’s ironic, because many who are truly disabled find it  impossible to gain a berth on the SSDI rolls. Cynics can be forgiven for believing it’s all about who you know, and how savvy you are at circumventing the system.

If the SSDI rolls continue to expand at the current rate, it won’t be long before the whole system collapses. To keep pace, taxes have to be raise on segments of the population, or other federal spending will have to be cut – and neither option seems likely, thanks to those other deadbeats whom voters elected to Congress.

It’s as simple as this: Those who can work, should work – and when they steal from taxpayers and other legitimately disabled Americans, they should be branded as criminals. We need a better system of catching the freeloaders.

If they’re skiing behind boats or down slopes, dancing all night at college reunions, installing siding on their houses, or engaging in vigorous sexual intercourse with a variety of people, chances are, they’re fit to do some type of job. If nothing else, they can volunteer – manning a crisis hotline, or filling out intake papers at a homeless shelter.

Voters approved drug tests here for all welfare recipients, even without concrete statistics to indicate widespread drug use is a problem.  

Perhaps we should also insist on frequent checks to ensure those on the SSDI rolls are, in fact, disabled. And we can start by looking at beneficiaries who have the energy to rant in public forums against others on entitlement programs. It’s a good bet those hypocrites, like the gaggle of fakers in New York, are capable of working – if any employer will have them.

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  • Tourism Council and chamber should cut the proverbial cord

    They are defined by two separate purposes and operate under two distinctive sets of bylaws, but years of conflicting opinions have left lingering questions and confusion over the relationship between the decades-old Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the younger Tahlequah Area Tourism Council.

    July 30, 2014

  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014


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