What is a Cooperative Disability Investigation?

Posted October 23, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

In the late 1990s, different government agencies joined forces to start the Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Program. The program is a joint initiative by the Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). These agencies work with State Disability and Determination Services (DDS) offices and local law enforcement offices to investigate suspicious Social Security claims that they think might be fraudulent.

Disability fraud includes claiming to be disabled when no disability exists, filing multiple disability applications, and lying about disabilities, work, or other activities on a disability application.

Generally, a CDI may occur as follows:

  • A fraud referral is made to the appropriate CDI unit. DDS or the Social Security Administration usually makes the referral. However, a referral may also be made by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearing Operations, a law enforcement agency, a private citizen, or an anonymous source.
  • The CDI Unit investigates. The CDI Unit consists of a Special Agent from OIG who serves as team leader. The other members of the team include state DDS employees, a Social Security Administration employee, and state or local law enforcement officers. The investigation may include a thorough review of your educational, work, and medical records, video surveillance of you whenever you leave your home, and third-party interviews.
  • The CDI Unit issues a report. The detailed report explains the investigation and the unit’s findings. It is sent to the state DDS office for review.
  • DDS decides if fraud occurred and whether the applicant should get disability benefits. DDS decides whether the applicant should start or continue receiving benefits. If the person is already receiving disability benefits, then DDS may stop payments. In some cases, the case may be referred to the government for criminal prosecution.

The OIG estimates that from the time the program began in 1997 through May 2020, the CDI Program saved the country approximately $4.2 billion in Social Security disability payments. Additionally, the CDI Program saved an estimated $3.2 billion in non-Social Security government benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Since a CDI could result in a report that prevents you from receiving Social Security disability benefits, it is important to understand your rights as a claimant if you are the subject of an investigation. Specifically, you have the right to:

  • Review the Report of Investigation. The report is part of your claims file, and as a disability claimant, you have the right to access your file.
  • Challenge the significance of evidence included in the Report of Investigation. You may, for example, present contradictory witnesses or provide evidence that the events described in the report are isolated occurrences that do not accurately reflect your condition.

In many cases, the goal of the investigation was to prove that you should not get disability benefits, and you should examine everything in the report with that premise in mind.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Announces 2021 Cost of Living Adjustment of 1.3%

Posted October 16, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 1.3 percent in 2021, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2021. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2020. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Information about Medicare changes for 2021, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2021 are announced. Final 2021 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola. You may also follow this link to find a fact sheet detailing various other automatic adjustments: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2020/#10-2020-1.

 

Environmental Limitations in Social Security Disability Cases

Posted October 9, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

There are many disabling conditions which include an environmental impairment aspect, like hypersensitivity to noise and light, or inability to tolerate dust, fumes or other common environmental elements found in the workplaces within your field of expertise. In some cases, though relatively rare, the environmental impairment alone may be the reason for filing a disability claim. In other cases, the disability claim may be based on a diagnosed medical condition that also has environmental impairment symptoms associated with it.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes types of impairments for the purposes of evaluating an applicant’s ability to perform essential job duties. There are two main categories of employment-related impairments or limitations that the SSA recognizes: Exertional and Non-exertional. Exertional impairments are the more common type seen in disability claims. These kinds of limitations relate to an applicant’s inability to perform routine activities required on the job. There are seven subcategories under exertional impairments: pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, and walking. Non-exertional impairments, while less common, are still valid reasons for filing a disability claim when they severely limit one’s ability to obtain and keep a job. There are five subcategories of non-exertional impairments: postural, manipulative, environmental, sensory, and mental.

If you are filing for disability benefits, and have an environmental impairment, you should include all of the pertinent information about it in your claim and medical file. You should do so even if the environmental impairment isn’t the sole condition upon which you are basing your claim. The reasoning behind this is simple: The SSA will make a decision on your claim based on all of your disabling conditions. If you have several disabling conditions which might not individually qualify you for disability benefits, you may still qualify based on the combined effects of all of your medical and/or mental conditions.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®