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International disability fraud case draws attention to issues

There is a serious cultural undertone of concern about disability and fraud. While disability income is generally so low that people struggle to survive on it, many people imagine that the system is rife with fraud.

Most people who receive disability benefits are in dire financial straits and unable to work. There are occasionally cases, however, where a person intentionally games the system to receive benefits that he or she shouldn't actually get.

Even if the fraud only amounts to a few hundred or thousand dollars, the potential penalties could be severe. The person who received the benefits could be ordered to repay them, while also facing other criminal penalties including fines or even jail time. It's important to establish that there wasn't an intent to defraud. In cases where intent is clear, penalties can be severe.

The United States closely controls disability benefits

In order to receive disability income in the United States, you must have medical records showing a complete and permanent disability. Typically, your assets and finances will also get carefully scrutinized. You are only allowed a small amount of assets, and any additional income from work or a side occupation can disqualify you.

Given how low benefits are, it's hard to imagine anyone intentional defrauding the disability system. While it is possible for someone to falsify documentation to receive disability fraudulently, that practice is uncommon. When it does happen and gets uncovered, the details of the case are often spectacular and disturbing, as in a recent case of disability fraud from the United Kingdom.

Allegedly disabled man climbed Kilimanjaro

A man who is now 33 fraudulently claimed more than six thousand pounds in disability benefits between 2014 and 2016. He claimed to be suffering from severe back injuries and post traumatic stress after working with the military.

He claimed to assessors that he could not bend or stretch, required walking aids and suffering pain when walking. Unfortunately for the man, he climbed Kilimanjaro during the time he was receiving benefits, took part in the World Powerboat Championships and even competed in a triathlon. He also submitted an application saying his needs had increased, requesting additional disability benefits. The courts have found him guilty, and he faces sentencing in the near future.

Disability fraud incurs real penalties

Not all cases of disability fraud are so easy to see. Sometimes, a person simply claims to have less mobility or more pain than he or she really experiences. Other times, a recipient may fail to immediately notify the proper parties when starting a new, decent paying job. The overlap between benefits and income could result in a fraud charge.

It is of critical importance that those receiving disability benefits make sure they provide accurate information to all authorities involved with the benefits and update records as soon as possible when situations change.

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