Invest Wisely

Social Security Disability Surveillance

by Megan Roth5 min read
social security disability surveillance

In 2014, there was a huge scandal when it was found that more than 100 policemen and firefighters were committing insurance fraud by falsely claiming Social Security Disability Income benefits. The Social Security Administration suspected fraud when they saw that nearly all the applications had the same handwriting and had pretty much exactly the same description of their ailments. Social Security Disability Surveillance is necessary to ensure that fraud is not committed. The Social Security Administration has teamed up with the Office of the Inspector General (of the SSA) to create the CDI. The CDI, or Cooperative Disability Investigations Program, works with the Disability Determination Services (DDS) and State/Local Law Enforcement to investigate suspicious disability claims.


What is investigated?

Claims for SSDI which appear to be suspicious are investigated. The CDI’s task is the check for fraud before the benefits are ever paid out. CDI Units also provide the DDS with information to validate or invalidate fraudulent claims for Continued Disability Reviews (people who are applying for long term disability benefits). Here are some examples of what might be considered fraudulent activity:

  • Faking or exaggerating illness or disability
  • Multiple applications
  • Receiving SSDI but hides the fact that he/she works
  • Receives SSDI for a child who is not under his/her care
  • A person fails to notify the SSA that an SSDI beneficiary has passed away and continues to receive the deceased’s benefits
  • Is receiving Supplemental Security Income but hides assets or marriage from the SSA.
  • Lives aboard but still receives SSI
  • Abuses the powers of a Representative Payee


How does the Investigation Work With Social Security Disability Surveillance?

The CDI team or unit consists of an OIG Special Agent who is the team leader, State or Local Law Enforcement officers and employees from the SSA and DDS (the DDS officer is the subject matter expert). Here is how the process works:

  • Tip-off on a fraudulent application. The tip-off is given by any number of sources – the DDS, SSA, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), private citizens, anonymous callers and even other law enforcement offices.
  • If the allegation is found to be valid enough, then the CDI starts the investigation. The applicant and his/her associates (relatives, friends, doctors, etc.) are interviewed by expert interviewers. If necessary, surveillance is also conducted on the suspect(s).
  • Surveillance may include video surveillance (in rare cases), checking copies of school and/or work records, social media records (in rare cases), but mostly interviews.


Reporting Suspected Fraud

If you have information about suspected fraud, you may

  • Call the CDI hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
  • Write to:
    • Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General

OIG Fraud Hotline

PO Box 17768,

Baltimore, MD 21235

Since the program started in 1998, the CID has saved $3.5 billion in savings for the Social Security Administration’s disability programs (SSDI and SSI). In 2016 alone, the CID saved the SSA’s disability programs $28 million.


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