Fraudsters caught on camera bilking the disability program out of millions

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on May 23, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Updated Thursday, May 23 at 6:06 PM

(KMOV.com) -- People who fake disabilities to get paid are part of an exploding entitlement program.

Here in St. Louis, the fakers contribute to the backlog, which forces people with real disabilities to wait up to two years to get approved.

In fact, the downtown St. Louis Social Security Administration office has the longest wait time for a disability ruling appeal in the country.

So the SSA is increasing efforts to bust the phonies.

Mark Cronk is on disability.

He says a 400 pound shelf crushed his leg and he also has congestive heart failure.

Cronk says getting approved wasn’t easy.

“For me it took 3 years and 10 days from the anniversary of me getting hurt at work” said Cronk.

The wait to see a judge can take years.

Meanwhile the St. Louis CDI unit, of Cooperative Disability Investigations unit, is busting people like one man who applied for disability claiming constant pain, problems with sitting, standing and walking.

But he was caught on video walking his dogs, carrying an amplifier and guitar, and helping to push a woman into a truck.

Another man applied for disability claiming severe back and shoulder pain.

But later he was caught on video at football practice where he’s seen stretching, and throwing around the pigskin.

Online the SSA posts these videos and others showing the fraud.

People who applied for disability, like a man spotted wrestling in the ring, or a man who uses a cane inside the Social Security office lobby, but then seems fine when he’s loading furniture in a dumpster, or sweeping leaves off his roof.

No doubt these claims make it harder for people with real health problems.

Cronk blames the issues with the SSA disability system on the long process to get approved.

He says he went through the same challenges when his son Ryan signed up for SSI, Supplemental Security Income, for epilepsy.

In May of 2012, Ryan told News 4 his condition was severe but he didn’t want to spend his life doing nothing. But when he would attempt working he was penalized financially, often months later he would notice a deduction in his SSI check for making a few dollars months before. Ryan died in February, his father says he spent much of Ryan’s life helping him battle social security bureaucracy.

As he started crying, Cronk told News 4, “he was a third of my heart, and that’s why my heart is hurting now, I’m sorry.”

Situations like the Cronk’s just reinforce the importance of disability programs for those who need it.

The St. Louis CDI unit continues to go after fraudsters.

Since 1999 they have weeded out more than 1,200 cases of disability fraud and by their estimate saved the program an estimated $84 million.

 

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