I have received disability benefits for the past seven years. SSI allows me to pay my rent and other bills. Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions about benefits. Often people think that disabled people are just using the system. Although fraud occurs, it is rare.
It is challenging to receive disability benefits in the first place. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.7% of people in the U.S have a disability, with over 12% having a severe disability. In contrast, only 5% of Americans receive Social Security benefits.
Former Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael J. Astrue estimated that less than 1% of disability claims are fraudulent. However, fraud does occasionally happen.
Two married former Tustin, California, police officers have been charged with workers’ compensation fraud after reportedly participating in mountain biking, boating, international scuba diving trips, and house repair projects while saying they were disabled. Kyle Hurd also bragged about receiving medical care that he did not need because “he was a good actor” in a text message to a friend.
According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Kendal Hurd, 40, and her husband Kyle Hurd, 38, have both been charged with multiple felony counts of insurance fraud, as well as perjury and attempted perjury.
Prosecutors said that the couple led an active lifestyle while claiming to suffer from severe back pain caused by wearing police duty belts and gear and getting in and out of their patrol cars, citing video surveillance as well as the couple’s own images and videos.
According to the DA Office, the couple received more than $188,000 while on disability. The two informed their workers’ compensation doctors that “their pain increased with activity and improved with rest.” When months of medical care did not result in any reported improvement, the city of Tustin began monitoring the couple.
Prosecutors argue that while under surveillance, the couple was seen sliding down a water slide, lifting children, riding bikes, paddle boarding, and taking Pilates lessons.
Fraud, while rare, still affects people who depend on benefits to help them live. Disability benefits should be available and accessible to everybody who needs them.
Avery, Sean. “Married Ex-Tustin Police Officers Charged with Workers’ Compensation Fraud.” Orange County Register, Freedom Communications, 17 Nov. 2023, http://www.ocregister.com/2023/11/17/married-ex-tustin-police-officers-charged-with-workers-compensation-fraud/amp/.
Roach, Lonnie. “The Misperception of Social Security Disability Fraud.” Bemis, Roach & Reed, 6 June 2022, https://www.brrlaw.com/social-security-disability-fraud/.