Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security inspector general’s office, among others, searched five doctors’ offices and one other location as part of their sweep, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Puerto Rico said. The spokeswoman wouldn’t comment further, saying it was part of a continuing investigation and that the six search warrants were sealed.
The federal investigation into disability fraud was launched in 2011 after a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal revealed widespread disparity in how some states and U.S. territories implement the Social Security Disability Insurance program. The chances of winning benefits could vary widely based on where someone applied for benefits, even though standards are supposed to be uniform.
Disability claims allowed soared in PR from 36% of initial applicants in 2006 to a whopping “sure thing”,
By 2010, nine of the top 10 U.S. ZIP Codes for workers receiving disability benefits were on the island.
33% are due to “mood disorders”.
The bottom line is that the disability insurance trust fund is projected to exhaust its reserves by 2016, and not just for Puerto Rico, but for the nation as a whole.
Fraud investigations are not new to the island; as you may recall, in 2010, identity theft investigations caused the State Department to not accept Puerto Rican birth certificates issued prior to July 1, 2010 as primary proof of citizenship for a U.S. passport.