For a period of 12 months, between November 2007 and November 2008, Edgar Ernest Black received over $26,000 in disability benefits on behalf of his teenaged son. Black was his son’s appointed representative payee, with the power to collect and distribute his son’s Social Security payments.
The problem is that the disabled teenager never saw a penny of that money.
In 2012 Black was convicted of stealing his son’s disability benefits and using the funds entirely for personal purchases. The case is an extreme example of the type of fraud and mismanagement disabled beneficiaries face across the country.
The difficulty of oversight
Managing the finances of a disabled family member is a difficult task – one that takes a lot of love and dedication. Unfortunately, the people most in need of help managing their finances are also the ones most likely to be taken advantage of by the friends and family members they trusted with their money.
A representative payee is appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when an individual is determined to be incapable of managing their own Social Security or SSI disability benefits. Traditionally, the SSA has turned to family members to serve in this role. With over 8 million Americans currently using a representative payee, however, this has created massive oversight issues and left many beneficiaries susceptible to fraud and abuse.
According to a recent report submitted to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the SSA “struggles to effectively administer its Representative Payee Program” owing primarily to “increasing workloads and staff attritions.”
Per a study appearing in the Penn State Law Review: “The lack of adequate supervision for representative payees creates opportunities for fraud and theft committed by payees against the beneficiaries they are appointed to represent.” This study cited incidents of beneficiary funds being pooled with other beneficiaries’ funds; funds being used to pay representative payees’ personal bills; and expenditures not being tracked in any way.
A new solution
This year CrissCross Representative Payee Services launched nationally with a mission to provide the personal, hands-on care beneficiaries want, as well as the professionalism and accountability the SSA needs to effectively protect beneficiaries.
“CrissCross is about balancing one-on-one care with clear transparency,” said Executive Director Amie Darway. “Our clients will always know what’s happening with their money.”
CrissCross’ secure management system is designed to ensure timely, accurate distribution of beneficiary funds. Monthly reports detail every penny disbursed, helping beneficiaries and SSA agents alike easily audit accounts, preventing the possibility of fraud and providing instant peace of mind.
For more information of CrissCross Representative Payee Services visit CrissCross.org.