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Audit uncovers unusual SSDI payments


Most Michigan residents in the workforce understand that injuries are always possible on the job and that if they are severe enough working may no longer be possible. Fortunately, for these workers and for those whose disabilities are so severe that they would never be able to gain full employment, benefits through the Social Security Administration can allow them to meet basic living expenses. But what qualifies as a disability?

A recent study conducted by the SSA's Inspector General found that 218 people living in Puerto Rico received Social Security Disability Insurance benefits from 2011 to 2013 because they could not speak English. The U.S. territory has two official languages, English and Spanish, although the majority of residents speak Spanish. Nearly 85 percent say their English is not very good. The extent of the benefits paid, the identities of the claimants and their specific circumstances are not clear. Although there have been allegations of fraud, apparently no criminal charges have been filed.

Eligibility for SSDI benefits is based on specific grounds set forth by the SSA. Physical and mental impairments can qualify if they meet SSA guidelines. Every application is assessed against these guidelines to see if a claimant qualifies for benefits.

One of the most important determinations is whether a claimant's disability is severe enough to hinder the ability to find a job. Anyone seeking SSDI benefits can contact the SSA for information. Because the application process can be complicated, many applicants get more information before they file the required paperwork or appeal any claim that is denied.

Source: ABC News, "Lack of English Meant Puerto Ricans Got Disability Benefits," April 7, 2015

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