State DHS to work with federal partners to fight fraud

The Michigan Department of Human Services and Social Security Administration last Friday launched a new program that will investigate disability fraud.

Federal officials joined Department of Human Services (DHS) leaders at DHS offices in Detroit in announcing the Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit.

Michigan's Disability Determination Service and DHS Office of Inspector General will pool their resources and expertise as they work with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to investigate possible fraud and prevent it before any benefits are paid by taxpayers.

SSA and its Office of Inspector General jointly established the Cooperative Disability Investigations program in 1997. Since then, efforts have contributed to $2.8 billion in projected savings to Social Security's programs and $1.8 billion in projected savings to related federal and state programs. The 25 locations around the country saved $168 million over the last year.

"I am excited about this state and federal partnership," said DHS Director Maura D. Corrigan. "Working together, we can be better stewards of taxpayer dollars and make sure that disability assistance helps people who are truly in need. Cracking down on fraud has been one of my top priorities. The Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit provides another tool for these important efforts."

Al Kimichik, director of the DHS Office of Inspector General, said the department's other anti-fraud efforts have been highly effective. "Last year, for every dollar we spent on fraud prevention and detection, Michigan taxpayers avoided costs of $21," he said. "Anti-fraud programs like the Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit provide a strong return on investment."

The Michigan disability investigations unit is the first of seven that SSA plans to establish by the end of fiscal year 2016 as part of a renewed agency effort to root out disability fraud and preserve benefits for those who truly deserve them. The Michigan unit will include an Office of Inspector General special agent, an SSA program expert, a state disability examiner, an investigative analyst and two investigators from the DHS Office of Inspector General.

"For more than 16 years, (Cooperative Disability Investigations) has had tremendous success in identifying and preventing disability fraud and abuse," said Social Security Inspector General Patrick P. O'Carroll Jr. "We're very pleased to partner with the Michigan Department of Human Services to expand our efforts to combat fraud and to ensure the integrity of Social Security's disability programs for the citizens of Michigan."

Disability fraud can involve faking injury or illness to avoid work, filing multiple applications, concealing work and exaggerating or lying about disabilities.

"These units play a critical role in preventing fraud and investigating complex conspiracies, and we are excited to establish a new unit in Detroit," said Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security. "I thank the Michigan Department of Human Services for their involvement, and Social Security will continue to expand the number of (Cooperative Disability Investigations) units throughout the country to combat fraud and preserve public trust in our programs."

Published: Tue, Aug 19, 2014