Social Security Fraud

Social Security Fraud - 42 U.S. Code § 408

There are several federal statutes addressing the issue of Social Security fraud. For example, 42 U.S.C. 408 makes it a federal offense to engage in different deceptive behaviors connected to Social Security benefits.  

This comprehensive law prohibits making false statements, omissions, or misrepresentations relevant to the functions of the Social Security Administration.  Many make false statements because they know it impacts their eligibility for disability benefits.

Social Security Fraud - 42 U.S. Code § 408
Several federal laws impose penalties for deceptive behaviors with Social Security benefits.

Initial or continuing eligibility for Social Security disability payments typically depends on someone's employment and disability status. Thus, deliberately making false claims or failing to disclose certain information could be considered Social Security fraud.

As noted, several federal laws are relevant to the crime of Social Security fraud. 18 U.S.C. 408 says, “Whoever—

(1) for the purpose of causing an increase in any payment authorized to be made under this subchapter or causing any payment to be made where no payment is authorized, shall make or cause to be made any false statement or representation (including any false statement or representation in connection with any matter arising under subchapter E of chapter 1, or subchapter A or E of chapter 9 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, or chapter 2 or 21 or subtitle F of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954) as

(2) makes or causes to be made any false statement or representation of a material fact in any application for any payment or for a disability determination, 

(6) willfully, knowingly, and with intent to deceive the Commissioner of Social Security as to his true identity (or the true identity of any other person) furnishes or causes to be furnished false information to the Commissioner of Social Security with respect to any information required by the Commissioner of Social Security in connection with the establishment and maintenance of the records provided for in section 405(c)(2) of this title.”

Other related laws include 42 U.S. Code 1383a and 1307 penalties for fraud.

What Are Some Examples of Social Security Fraud?

There are numerous examples of Social Security fraud and disability payments. Notably, these prohibited acts must be made willingly and knowingly, such as the following:

  • Applying for benefits using a false name or Social Security number.
  • Providing false information to establish or maintain Social Security records.
  • Falsely represent a number as your Social Security number.
  • Enter misleading material on a tax return form.
  • Claiming an incorrect number of dependents to receive more money.
  • Duplicating, changing, or constructing a counterfeit Social Security card.
  • Using a Social Security number obtained by fraud to increase your benefits.
  • A recipient of a beneficiary's money fails to disclose they died to the Social Security Administration to keep receiving payments.
  • Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's Social Security number to receive a benefit.
  • Making a false statement or misrepresenting information to seek Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
  • Making false statements regarding income you have received from an employer or self-employment.
  • Concealing or failing to report information that would affect the Social Security benefits payment.
  • Using Social Security payments received on behalf of another person for any purpose other than their well-being.

Suppose you become temporarily disabled due to an accident on the job and apply and receive Social Security disability payments for a period. 

At some point, you heal and can safely return to work but fail to report the change in your physical condition. In that case, you could be charged with Social Security fraud.
Notably, you could face prosecution in federal court even if the government has not yet made payments based on fraud or misrepresentation.

What are the Related Federal Laws?

42 U.S. Code Subchapter II, federal old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits, has several federal laws related to Social Security fraud, such as the following:

  • 42 U.S.C. 401 - Trust funds,
  • 42 U.S.C. 402 - Old-age and survivors' insurance benefit payments,
  • 42 U.S.C. 403 - Reduction of insurance benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 404 - Overpayments and underpayments,
  • 42 U.S.C. 405 - Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments,
  • 42 U.S.C. 405a - Regulations pertaining to frequency or due dates of payments and reports under voluntary agreements covering State and local employees,
  • 42 U.S.C. 405b - Reducing identity fraud,
  • 42 U.S.C. 406 - Representation of claimants before the Commissioner,
  • 42 U.S.C. 407 - Assignment of benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 409 - “Wages” defined,
  • 42 U.S.C. 410 - Definitions relating to employment,
  • 42 U.S.C. 411 - Definitions relating to self-employment,
  • 42 U.S.C. 412 - Self-employment income credited to calendar years,
  • 42 U.S.C. 413 - Quarter and quarter of coverage,
  • 42 U.S.C. 414 - Insured status for old-age and survivor's benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 415 - Computation of primary insurance amount,
  • 42 U.S.C. 416 - Additional definitions,
  • 42 U.S.C. 417 - Benefits for veterans,
  • 42 U.S.C. 418 - Voluntary coverage of State and local employees,
  • 42 U.S.C. 418a - Voluntary coverage of Indian tribal council,
  • 42 U.S.C. 420 - Disability provisions inapplicable if benefit impaired,
  • 42 U.S.C. 421 - Disability determinations,
  • 42 U.S.C. 422 - Rehabilitation services,
  • 42 U.S.C. 423 - Disability insurance benefit payments,
  • 42 U.S.C. 424a - Reduction of disability benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 425 - Additional rules relating to disability benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 426 - Entitlement to hospital insurance benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 426–1 - End-stage renal disease program,
  • 42 U.S.C. 426a - Transitional provision on the eligibility of uninsured individuals for hospital insurance benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 427 - Transitional insured status for purposes of old-age and survivor's benefits,
  • 42 U.S.C. 428 - Benefits at age 72 for certain uninsured individuals,
  • 42 U.S.C. 429 - Benefits in case of members of uniformed services,
  • 42 U.S.C. 430 - Adjustment of contribution and benefit base,
  • 42 U.S.C. 431 - Benefits for certain individuals interned by the United States during World War II,
  • 42 U.S.C. 432 - Processing of tax data,
  • 42 U.S.C. 433 - International agreements,
  • 42 U.S.C. 434 - Demonstration project authority.

What Are the Penalties and Defenses?

If convicted, the penalties for violating a provision of the Social Security Act or a related law of the federal criminal code include a fine, prison, or both. The fines can range from $500 to $10,000. Federal prison time can vary from 5 to 15 years, depending upon the specific law violated.

Social Security Fraud

However, suppose someone receives a fee for submitting false statements, such as a claimant representative, doctor, or another person assisting in perpetrating Social Security fraud knowingly. In that case, the violation is punishable by ten years of imprisonment, a fine, or both.

A common defense includes challenging one of the crucial elements. Like other fraud crimes, proving your intent beyond a reasonable doubt is often challenging.
Fraud requires the intent to defraud.  

To prove this intent, the government must establish through evidence that you deliberately made a false statement with the hope that someone would rely on that statement and, as a result, suffer a loss. Simply put, to prove Social Security Fraud, you must have known it was false at the time and intended to receive benefits to which you were not entitled by making the statement.

Perhaps we can prove you reasonably believed that your statements were factual when you made them. Maybe we can argue that while you made a false statement, it did not impact your eligibility for Social Security Benefits. Contact our federal criminal defense lawyers for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California.

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