Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration expanded a Philadelphia-area pilot program nationally in hopes of baring criminals from controlling benefits on behalf of the elderly and disabled.
The program was launched in Pennsylvania nearly two years ago after four mentally disabled people were rescued from a basement. The four had been held captive as part of a scheme to steal social security benefits.
Here’s how the pilot program works: Potential “representative payees” who collect disability payments for people who can’t handle their own finances are rejected if they’ve committed one or more of a dozen crimes. The crimes include sexual assault, kidnapping, first-degree homicide, identity theft and various types of fraud charges.
One potential hang-up with the program is the fact that the Social Security Administration does not have access to the FBI’s criminal database. That’s because the agency is not considered law enforcement. Instead, Social Security employees must rely on public records and private, third-party databases. Some of these databases are outdated or unreliable.
The Social Security Administration says the pilot program has been a success. However, screeners have flagged less than one percent of the 34,850 applicants.
One Senator from Pennsylvania says expansion is a plus and that the program needs to be monitored. He also says the programs needs to make sure that every person who applies to be a representative is subjected to a criminal background check. This program bears watching in the weeks and months ahead.
Background checks continue to make headlines for a variety of reasons. Background checks and pre-employment screenings have just become a common of the hiring practice of many businesses. Checking potential employees through reliable background checks helps eliminate the “wrong hire” and reduces the risk of hiring lawsuits. It also helps increase workplace security.