Less than a year ago, a former police chief was sentenced to federal prison...for Social Security Disability fraud. Vernis Farmer, a 52 year old police chief from Hayti Heights, Missouri, was sentenced to 21 months in prison on just one felony count of making a false statement to obtain Social Security Disability benefits and two felony counts of concealing information from the Social Security Administration.
An article from the Southeast Missourian dated September 1, 2010, discusses Mr. Farmer's case in detail. They reported the following: "On March 13, 2007, Farmer reported to the Kennett Social Security Office that he was working 20 hours per week and earning only $800 per month, as the police chief for Hayti Heights, between November 2006 and February 2007. The amount of money he reported was important, because the Social Security Disability work rules allowed beneficiaries to earn up to $860 per month in the year 2006 and $900 per month in the year 2007, without having their benefits suspended. Bank records showed that Farmer was receiving $1,920 per month for full-time work as the police chief.
Since Farmer reported his earnings were below the maximum amount, the Social Security Administration continued to pay his disability benefits. In addition, to the nearly two-year term of imprisonment that was ordered, Farmer was ordered to repay $43,374.50. That figure represents the disability benefits Farmer fraudulently received in conjunction with the current criminal case. The District Court found that since 2001, Farmer fraudulently caused the Social Security Administration to make more than $66,000 in disability benefits that should not have been awarded."
As uncommon as we would like this type of story to be, it isn't. In fact, it's one of the main reasons the Social Security Administration is so strict when it comes to deciding cases, and why the process can often take such a long time. There are a high number of applicants applying for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits, and the Social Security Administration must take their time determining which applicants are being truthful and which ones are not.
We don't want our clients to end up in Mr. Farmer's shoes. Rather, we emphasize the importance of being honest and upfront when filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, and encourage the same honesty when they appear before an Administrative Law Judge.