Disability fraud is not a very common form of crime. The system is very slow and the amount of benefits relatively low for the amount of effort someone would need to invest to perpetuate a successful fraud. That could include falsifying medical records, committing for months or even years to acting out an exaggerated display of symptoms and much more. The amount of work hardly seems worth it, given the meager benefits many people receive through disability programs.
However, some people do manage to fake their way through the disability system. These exceptions often provide fuel for those who aggressively seek to prove disability fraud. In order to discourage others from similar offenses, the penalties involved in disability fraud cases are often steep.
Florida woman successfully defrauded workers’ compensation
A 54-year-old Florida woman previously convicted by the courts in December of 2017 avoided jail in her fraud cause in this month. The judge in her case ordered the former mail carrier to repay the full amount of benefits she received wrongfully. She was also sentenced to three years on probation, 30 days at a work camp and 100 hours of community service in lieu of jail time. The total amount of those benefits was $112,612.64. She could have been sentenced to 15 to 21 months in federal prison for her crime.
The woman worked for the United States Postal Service (USPS) from 1986 until 2011, when she filed a claim for federal workers’ compensation. She claimed to have suffered a serious back injury that limited both her daily activities and her lifestyle. She convinced her physicians of the injury, which resulted in her being categorized as permanently disabled in 2014.
Suspicious federal agents sent her a survey in 2016 that helped build a case against her. She provided information indicating she went shopping at least five times a week. She also states that she enjoys boating, cycling, dancing, weightlifting and traveling to the Caribbean. Investigators discovered that those travels included scuba diving and riding massive waterslides. She was arrested in December of 2016 and convicted a year later. Now, she will need to find a way to repay all of the benefits she has received.
Disability fraud isn’t always what it looks like on the outside
Not everyone accused of disability fraud is actually guilty of a crime. Sometimes, pictures or posts on social media can provide employers, private investigators or state officials with an inaccurate impression of a person’s condition or ability. When that happens, people who legitimately need disability benefits could find themselves defending against a serious crime.
Even in this case, the woman in question insisted she had to be quite careful during activities, as pain could result that persisted for days. She continued to claim that she was unable to work without a cot or some other means of lying down. For those with serious disabilities who face accusations of disability fraud, the consequences could be quite serious.