How Do You Know If Social Security is Investigating You?
In this article we are going to take a closer look at the Social Security system, the reasons they may start an investigation and how you can find out if they are looking into you. We will also give you some advice as to how to avoid being investigated and what to do if you are.
What Is the Social Security Administration?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is an independent government agency that administers Social Security. It is an insurance program that consists of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In order to qualify for these benefits most workers pay into the system through Social Security taxes.
The head offices of the Social Security agency are located in Woodlawn, Maryland and are referred to as the Central Office. There are tens of thousands of workers employed by the Social Security agency and it is the largest government program in the United States.
It is estimated that by the end of the 2022 fiscal year the agency will have paid out $1.2 trillion in benefits to 66 million citizens and legal residents of the United States. An additional $61 billion is expected in SSI benefits and $7.5 million to low-income individuals.
This government agency is a vital part of the country's economy and without it millions of already struggling Americans would have nothing. It is a program that many have paid into for decades in preparation for retirement and as an insurance policy against sudden disability.
History of the Social Security Agency
On August 14th 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This led to the creation of the Social Security Board (SSB), a presidentially appointed group of three executives tasked with overseeing the Social Security Program.
With zero budget, staff or even furniture the SSB finally obtained funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It was on October 14th 1936 that the first Social Security Office opened its doors in Austin, Texas.
In January of 1937 Social Security taxes were first collected. Just a few years later the first Social Security check was issued to Ida Mary Fuller of Battleboro, Vermont. Ida’s check was dated January 31st 1940 and she received $22.54.
The SSB in 1939 merged with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Civilian Conservation Corp and other government agencies to become the Federal Security Agency. In 1846 under President Harry S. Truman the SSB was named the Social Security Administration SSA.
In 1953 the Federal Security Agency was dismantled and the SSA was placed under the banner of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Finally in 1994 President Bill Clinton made the Social Security Administration an independent body once again.
How Do Social Security Investigations Start?
If we want to understand how Social Security investigations work we have to start with what can trigger them. Applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Social Security insurance (SSI) may not be aware but the administration begins an investigation when you apply. This means that simply by applying, the Social Security Administration is going to be looking into you to ensure you are telling them the truth.
It is usually the workers at the Social Security local office which received your application who start an investigation. They may contact you for more information and will in the case of disability claims require access to your medical records.
The administration is looking to confirm what you have reflected on your application and if discrepancies are found they look more deeply into your information.
What Is a Social Security Fraud Investigation?
You may pass the initial investigation phase and be awarded benefits but this may not be the end of the investigations. The Social Security Administration may receive fraud reports from SSA’s Office or Hearing Operations, private citizens and other anonymous sources.
If fraud is reported to the Social Security Administration by any potentially credible source they may open a discrete investigation into a benefit recipient. The Social Security Administration takes a dim view of fraud as well they might. This system is to supply resources to those who truly need it so when individuals try to defraud Social Security their benefits can be suspended. The disqualifying frauds that can lose you your benefits include:
- Providing identification details which are not your own.
- Supplying false information or statements in support of your case
- Supplying false information concerning income
- Failing to disclose self-employment status
- Failing to report means that could affect your benefits
Simply put, the Social Security Administration catches you in a lie during application or at a later time they can deny, suspend or ban you from receiving benefits.
Changes in Assets
When we apply for benefits we not only have to report our previous and current incomes but also any significant assets we have access to. It must be proved that we do indeed need the benefits because we do not have the means to support ourselves.
Social Security approves benefits upon the individual making less than $914 a month in personal income and having assets of less than $2000 which excludes one primary residence and one vehicle. This means were the beneficiary to be left a second residence or vehicle as a bequest from family they would be over the threshold of assets and may lose their benefits.
What Powers of Investigation Does Social Security Have?
Social Security has some pretty broad powers to conduct direct and covert investigations against suspected fraud. You can be brought in for interviews or asked to supply updated evidence under threat of benefit suspensions. They can also discreetly look into you and your activities in search of proof that you may not be telling the truth.
The SSA may look into your online presence because a surprising number of fraudulent disability claimants will post vacation videos of them doing something they claim to be unable to do. When you are called in for interviews you may be watched at all times for slip ups like not using mobility equipment you claim to need or saying the wrong thing over the phone within ear-shot.
Investigators also have the power to follow and perform surveillance on suspected fraudsters watching to see some kind of activity that might go against your claims of physical capabilities. With SSDI and SSI fraud being such an issue the Social Security administration will investigate most leads when it comes to suspected fraud.
How To Avoid being Investigated
You can’t avoid the initial investigations, it's all part of the process but you can help yourself avoid later scrutiny by following a few simple tips.
Do Not Lie
The importance of this can not be overstated because the Social Security Administration takes a very dim view of fraud. If you knowingly give misleading information you can very easily not only be denied but also barred from applying again for attempting fraud.
Exaggeration Is a Mistake
This again comes back to being honest but it should go without saying do not exaggerate the severity of your condition or the level of your financial situation. These are both things that the Social Security Administration will check into and if they find documentation that is contrary to your claims you may end up in hot water.
This may be so easy for other people to say and we fully understand that becoming newly disabled and having your life turned upside down can be stressful and leave you feeling angry. Resenting the process and people questioning what you are going through is understandable but becoming angry with Social Security Administration staff will not work in your favor.
Always Have Copies of All Your Relevant Records
Never assume that the Social Security Administration has everything that they need already and always have a copy of everything you have related to your case in the event you need to prove something you are claiming at a later date.
How Do You Know Social Security is Investigating You?
As mentioned, as soon as we apply for Social Security benefits the administration starts looking into us as part of the process. They however retain the powers to perform further investigations after you are accepted for benefits.
If the Social Security Administration has reason to suspect fraud they can start an investigation at any time. They can choose to notify you and request new proof or if the fraud is something that needs proof for them to prove they may investigate secretly.
They have trained investigators who are very good at what they do so if they do not want you to know you are being investigated it is hard to know. You may notice an unfamiliar vehicle near your home that may appear in other locations but frankly we are getting into the kind of instincts you see on TV about being followed or watched. The key is that you do not lie to the SSA and then no matter if they investigate you, you’re in no danger of losing your benefits.
You may be notified about an investigation being opened on you or the Social Security Administration may go about it in a covert way. Fraud is not considered minor to the SSA so they will look into reports of dishonesty using experienced well trained investigators.
Reference SSA Locator
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"How Do You Know If Social Security is Investigating You?". SSA Locator. Accessed on November 29, 2023. https://ssalocator.com/blog/how-do-you-know-if-social-security-is-investigating-you/.
"How Do You Know If Social Security is Investigating You?". SSA Locator, https://ssalocator.com/blog/how-do-you-know-if-social-security-is-investigating-you/. Accessed 29 November, 2023
How Do You Know If Social Security is Investigating You?. SSA Locator. Retrieved from https://ssalocator.com/blog/how-do-you-know-if-social-security-is-investigating-you/.