Social Security is conducting more fraud investigations than they have in the past. Congress has directed Social Security to expand their fraud investigations units, known as Cooperative Disability Investigations or CDI units. Congress wants CDI's everywhere no later than 2022. At present, Social Security has CDI's in only thirty-one states (I guess they know which are the nineteen most honest states.) Expanding CDI's is a rather typical government response: rather than spending the money necessary to process claims faster, Social Security will divert limited resources to chasing the random cheater. I have on rare occasions seen reports from CDI investigators. To call their work a joke would be too generous. A typical CDI report says something about observing a claimant in a grocery store or in a park. Though these CDI investigators have no medical training, they don't hesitate to report that the claimant "walked without difficulty." I had one once where the report indicated that the claimant walked from his front door down to his mailbox at the curb. The CDI investigators breathlessly reported how athletic the claimant was, bounding obstacles and presumably tall buildings as he walked twenty feet in either direction.
If we could dismiss these reports as the inconsequential nonsense they are, it would be one thing. But, in practical terms, a CDI report is generally fatal to a claim. The mere fact that a CDI report exists puts the entire claim under such a cloud, virtually nothing--including doctor reports and such objective evidence as MRI scans--can revive the claim. Is this really a proper way for Social Security to operate? Fraud is a problem anytime government money is in play. But to allow these would-be Sam Spades to give medical opinions based on a few minutes of observation is not acceptable. If the CDI's want to be effective, they should, in the famous words of Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein "follow the money." If CDI's find that supposedly disabled people are earning large sums of money, for example, that would be credible. Reporting that John Doe walked to his mailbox and back without falling over, is not.
Better still, send the CDI investigators to follow around the doctors who steal millions of dollars from Medicare. I bet that one crooked doctor can steal more money than ten thousand fraudulent Social Security recipients--if there even are that many fraudulent recipients. If you doubt it, check out the recent $50,000,000 Medicare fraud case from New Orleans. Ask yourself how many CDI cases that take away somebody's $733 monthly check would it take to equal this one Medicare fraud? Still think spending more money on CDI's makes fiscal sense? Do you want to spend your tax dollars on a gumshoe sitting in a white van watching a person collect his mail? Or would you rather see more investigations into the people stealing the real money? Congress's decision to force Social Security to spend money on fraud investigations shows how our government approaches problems these days: don't address the underlying issues, such as claimants literally dying waiting for a disability hearing. No, better to invent a problem that does not really exist and waste resources on it.