Northbrook Social Security disability attorneys routinely face questions about Social Security fraud. The Social Security Administration takes fraud very seriously, and the penalties are likewise severe: penalties can include up to 15 years of prison time, up to $10,000 in fines, or both. These penalties can apply to any fraud conviction, regardless of whether or not the defendant actually received any payments. The best way to avoid committing fraud is to be honest and forthcoming. Your Northbrook Social Security disability attorney can best advise you on your specific claim. However, follow these general tips to avoid committing fraud.
Be Honest When You Apply for a Social Security Number
You may already know that it is fraud to use someone else’s Social Security number to apply for or receive any benefits. However, you may also be committing fraud if you knowingly submit false information in an application for a Social Security number of your own. Be honest in your application, and never use anyone else’s information when seeking your own Social Security benefits. Likewise, you should never allow someone else to apply for benefits using your Social Security number.
Be Honest about Your Wage and Employment History
As part of your application for Social Security benefits, you will submit your personal wage and employment history, and you may testify about this information during a hearing. If you misrepresent your wage and employment history or status, you may be guilty of Social Security fraud. It may be tempting to understate your wages in an effort to qualify for more benefits, but you should know that these kinds of misrepresentations are considered fraudulent. Your Northbrook Social Security disability attorney can explain the benefit application process and why your employment history is so critical to your claim. For any Social Security claim, it is also imperative that you notify the Social Security Administration about any change in your work status. If you take employment in certain types of jobs, or work above certain thresholds, it can affect your right to collect Social Security benefits. If you fail to notify the Social Security Administration about changes to your employment, they may interpret that failure as an attempt to defraud the government.
Be Honest about Any Material Facts Concerning Your Claim
Material facts are essentially the building blocks of your Social Security claim. If the Social Security Administration relies on a specific piece of information to determine your eligibility for benefits, that information is considered a material fact. If you misrepresent or omit any material facts, you may be committing fraud. Materials facts differ based on the type of claim you are filing. For instance, in a disability claim, information you supply about your disability – including your ability to work – would constitute a material fact. For this reason, do not exaggerate the extent of an injury or disability. Your honesty about your disability does not apply only to the documents you file or the statements you make at a disability hearing; you can also commit fraud by misrepresenting your disability to a medical care provider whose report is included in your claim. If you are already receiving disability benefits and your disability improves, you must also notify the Social Security Administration of the change to your status. Another common example of a material fact is information you provide about your assets. Be sure that you disclose any assets you own, including real estate, as this information may affect your eligibility for benefits. As always, you should discuss the particulars of your claim with a Northbrook Social Security disability attorney.
Appoint a Trustworthy Payee
If you receive Social Security benefits, you may elect to appoint a representative payee who receives the funds on your behalf. If a payee misuses Social Security funds in any way, he or she could be guilty of fraud. If you appoint a representative payee, make sure that he or she actually uses your Social Security funds for your care and support. Selecting a trustworthy and dependable payee is an important step toward safeguarding your benefits. If you suspect that your payee is diverting your benefits, contact the Social Security Administration immediately.
If You Are a Representative Payee, Develop a Responsible Bookkeeping System
If you are acting as the representative payee for someone else, you have a responsibility to use those funds appropriately. Consider establishing a separate bank account solely for expenses associated with the care of the benefits recipient. You should never use any Social Security funds for your own benefit. As a responsible recordkeeping measure, save all of your receipts to document that Social Security funds were spent on the appropriate recipient and not for your personal use. If you are a representative payee for a recipient who dies or becomes ineligible for Social Security benefits, you must notify the Social Security Administration immediately. If you continue to receive benefits on that person’s behalf, you may be committing fraud.
Notify the Social Security Administration If Your Circumstances Change
As discussed above, you should always notify the Social Security Administration of any material changes to your circumstances. In addition to employment status and improvement in disability, you should also notify the Social Security Administration if you move or if your income exceeds the relevant limits. A Northbrook Social Security disability attorney can advise you regarding other types of changes that you should disclose to the government. You should consult with your attorney if you have questions about your continued eligibility for Social Security benefits.
Contact a Northbrook Social Security Disability Attorney
The laws regarding Social Security fraud are complex, and the penalties are severe for those who commit fraud. For this reason, you should always consult with an attorney regarding your eligibility for Social Security benefits and your duty to disclose certain information to the Social Security Administration. To speak with a Northbrook Social Security disability attorney, contact us today.