Surveillance catches people in the act of defrauding disability fund

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a lifeline for persons who are disabled, but thousands of con artists are trying to take advantage of the program.

And it's costing taxpayers' money.

A relatively new program that's run by the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security already has saved local taxpayers more than $45 million.

Each year the United States gives more than $175 billion in Social Security funds to people on disability. But the Kansas City Cooperative Disability Investigations, or CDI program, says not everyone applying for, or getting a piece of that money, is disabled.

And it's got the undercover video to prove it.

"There's always fraud involved when there's money being handed out," said Troy Turk.

Turk is the special agent in charge of Kansas City's Office of Inspector General CDI program.

Turk showed FOX 4 undercover video taken by his office in conjunction with two officers from the Kansas City Police Department dedicated to the program.

The video shows people right here in the metro who claim to be so impaired by a disability, they can't work. People who are applying for payouts from Social Security's disability benefits.

People like a 32-year-old woman who applied for disability based on chronic pain syndrome she claimed left her unable to walk without a permanent limp, or move without pain.

"Look, she says that she can't do anything and she's running across the field," Turk explained as the video played.

Or there's a 37-year-old who filed an application alleging she has difficulty dressing herself, walking and sitting.  Investigators caught the woman lifting a motorized wheelchair into the back of her car.

"This is just one piece of the evidence, and it's a powerful piece," Turk said.

Also caught, a 40-year-old man who Turk says started receiving disability in 2002, claiming his disease affects all possible mental and physical activities.

The man is caught on surveillance buying a cane before a doctor's appointment, limping into the office, before returning the cane.

Turk and the CDI program helped deny the two women, among many others, those disability payments.  The man was forced to pay back the $11,000 he had received plus more than $80,000 in penalties.

"For someone to commit fraud and possibly keep the money out of the hands of people who need it the most, it's disturbing," Turk said.

In 2010 Turk's Office of the Inspector General partnered with Kansas City police, the Social Security Administration and others to stop fraudulent claims.

"Most of the time there's no remorse. There's none of that. People don't feel remorse about stealing money from the government," Turk said.

But Turks says it's not the government from which these people are stealing.

"You're actually stealing from your neighbors, your families, your friends. They are actually stealing from the trust fund that was built up by the American people," he said.

To date Turk says the Kansas City CDI has closed more than 700 cases and saved metro taxpayers more than $45 million.​

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17 comments

  • deborah

    I worked for a company that sold cars and I could not beleive how many people came in that was getting checks since they were kids cause there grandma had signed them up .. unreal these people nothing wrong with them at all.. lazy and we pay for it.. the system certainly needs someone to do ramdon checks. drugscreens and so much more.. to catch these people who do not deserve free money… and then we pay people who have not paid anything in to the system from other countries.. wow

  • sheila

    This makes me sick my husband has Leukemia he was told by ssn since he didn’t have a date when he was going to die they wouldn’t review his case until September but this woman and many others like her can get ssn talk about a messed up Government

    • Connie

      Your husband should be able to get on SSI right away. We had a friend that was disabled and couldn’t get on SSI until he got cancer. One call from a nurse at the hospital that he was in was all it took to get the ball rolling for him.

  • Belinda

    i AM 61 HAVE HARDENING OF MY MAIN ARTERY GOING FROM MY Heart causing circulation problems, Degenerative arthritis in back, neck.and knees. I have worked in restaurants and managed most on my feet lifting heavy things most of my life, as of 2 years ago and then took care of my friend that had cancer, When he died, i tried to go back to work and could not do it i have been jumping through hoops trying to get my disability. for a year, i raise my grandson, thank God because his little bit from his Mothers death benefit is all we have to live on. My landlord is a god send because they are waiting for me to get the money from SS for their rent. I hate it when people don’t need it and get it right away and the ones that do need it can;t,

      • DC

        @ Nick, the person I spoke of above has a spouse with a great job (big $$) and benefits. It makes no sense.

      • Koni Royval

        So you feel I should not be able to lay on my couch and watch TV as I am disabled? Eating is also not allowed? I have worked as a board certified optician since 1976 as well as being licensed to practice in two states. In that time I also co-owned two businesses as well as raised my family although I had my spine damaged by 3 auto accidents,all of which I was the passenger. In my 30’s I was diag. with M.S. and kept working with the multitude of neuro issues. I then started loosing the discs in my neck mid and lower back. I had 4 neck surgeries leaving me with rods and a cage and alot of pain as well as a big tendency to drop and throw items as well as fall when ever the impulses from my feet and legs do not get to my brain. The pain was bad enough ,but then part of my spinal cord in my neck became flattened. Now I burn all the time. Everything that made me me is gone. Holding my head upright over an hour-gone, sewing,cleaning,gardening,driving, and my work,my very identity. So once a month my husband takes me to the doctor and to the store, so if you see me shopping ,it is because he is trying to give me some of what I was. A vital happy busy woman that lived with pain but was still able to help others but now lays on the couch watching the TV you feel I have no right to ( YOU do not pay our bills) praying for the day my pain will end. Oh yeas,the government denied me any help,although I have only 4 discs left and have walked with a cane 17 years but since my arms gave out the cane is of little help. You are clueless as to the number of people that have worked and paid in to the system for decades such as I.

  • Nick

    Maybe one day the government agencies will verify before handing money out. People used to work until the day they died which is what I plan on doing because I won’t ask for handouts of any kind.

  • Adam

    Maybe “Public Shame” would help along with convictions. Publish names and pictures in paper, on tv etc. When they get convicted, make them do community service for a group related to their alleged disability. Garnish tax returns for the “Credits”

  • Melody Flynn

    When I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001 I was 46 years old and had worked full time since I was 19. I continued to work for 6 more years (even though I was sick) before my company closed and laid us all off. That is when I finally broke down and applied for SSDI. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to get it and I wasn’t ashamed because I’d contributed to SS all of my adult life. I am truly disabled and would give anything to be able to be well and able to go back to work again. People who fake being sick and rob from the rest of us are disgusting – it’s times like this that I really hope there is such a thing as Karma.