Tahlequah Daily Press

January 10, 2014

Disability fraud: Bad apples in the Big Apple


Staff

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.