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Program to protect SSDI recipients expanded nationally

People who are physically or mentally disabled often rely on the financial support provided through Social Security Disability Insurance. These payments are made available to people who are suffering from various illnesses or injuries that make it impossible for them to work, either temporarily or permanently. Some of the people who collect SSDI are so disabled, however, that they are unable to manage their own finances.

That is why some Georgia residents may have a representative payee, or a person who manages and uses SSDI payments on behalf of the recipient. In many cases, these payees take this responsibility seriously and are able to effectively assist a disabled person. However, there are parties who have taken advantage of this role and used this money for their own benefit. A program that was tested out in Philadelphia attempted to tackle this problem, and the results were promising. In fact, the Social Security Administration has recently announced that they will be expanding the program to be used nationally.

According to reports, there have been a number of very troubling instances of vulnerable, disabled adults being abused and neglected by representative payees. The so-called predators collect the financial benefits on behalf of the disabled or elderly recipient and then use the money for their own gain, ignoring their duty to act in the best interests of the recipient.

In order to address and fix this situation, Social Security employees will now be looking more closely at potential payees and doing a criminal background check on each one. If a person has a criminal history that involves certain crimes, he or she is rejected and cannot act as a payee. The crimes that could get a person rejected include various acts of violent, fraud, abuse, identity theft and other similar behaviors. 

Sources indicate that there are some obstacles when it comes to enforcing the program, including limited access to criminal databases. And so far, there have only been a very small amount of people who have been flagged as a result of the new screening process. However, officials believe that expanding the program is a good step in protecting vulnerable adults and their SSDI benefits.

Source: Philly.com, "Social Security expands background checks," Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, March 3, 2014

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