I frequently get questions from this blog about how to report Social Security disability fraud. In the video below, I’ll set out exactly how to do that. However, before filing a fraud report, remember that alleging fraud is a very serious matter. If you report fraud to get back at an ex-spouse or someone you do not like, you could find yourself in trouble. Further, remember that appearances can be deceiving. [Read More...]
I ran across this article/video on Tennessee TV station W-REG entitled TN Man Fathers 30 Children: Can’t Support Any.
According to this report, 33 year old Knoxville resident Desmond Hatchett has children with 11 different women. The state child support recovery office takes half his minimum wage paycheck and divides it up. Some of the mothers receive as little as $1.49 a month. The oldest child is 14 years old.
Hatchett acknowledges that he fathered four kids in the same year – twice.
In 2009, Hatchett appeared in court for failure to pay child support and he promised to change his behavior. However, he has produced nine more babies during the past three years. Mr. Hatchett has not broken any Tennessee laws with his behavior.
Mr. Hatchett has not filed a claim for disability, but if he does in the future and is awarded benefits, Social Security could be on the hook for both his benefits as well as tens of thousands of dollars each year for auxiliary benefits.
What, if anything, should the state of Tennessee do about Mr. Hatchett’s irresponsible behavior? Should the women Mr. Hatchett sleeps with bear any responsibility for this situation?
I regularly see comments on this blog and receive emails to my Social Security disability law firm from non-custodial parents who are fuming that the mother of their children appears to be misusing either child support payments or auxiliary payments coming from Social Security based on a disability claim by the NCP.
As far as supposed misuse of child support payment is concerned, that is a matter for your state court or state child support enforcement office – Social Security will not get involved in that.
Social Security will get involved if a representative payee (often a custodial parent) misuses auxiliary benefit funds. When benefits are due to a minor child, Social Security will designate a representative payee to receive and disburse those funds for the benefit of the child (called the “beneficiary”).
Social Security has set out a number of rules that govern the conduct and decisions of representative payees. Here is what SSA says about the obligations of a rep payee:
First, you must make sure the beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter are met. Then, the money can be used for any of the beneficiary’s medical and dental care that is not covered by health insurance, and for personal needs, such as clothing and recreation. If there is money left after you pay for the beneficiary’s needs, it must be saved, preferably in an interest-bearing account or U.S. Savings Bonds.
Representative payees also have reporting obligations – they must submit an annual worksheet detailing how the auxiliary benefits were used. SSA’s guidelines also contain examples of what constitutes an appropriate larger expenditure such as furniture or a car.
Social Security reports that it disburses $20 billion annually to 4 million beneficiaries through the representative payee program. Misuse is and has been a problem and since 2004, SSA has stepped up enforcement actions against payees.
Anyone can report misuse of funds by a representative payee – you can call 800-772-1213. You cannot, however, use the “misuse of funds” reporting to harass or seek revenge on a former spouse or partner. Reporting abuse is similar to reporting a crime – you need to be certain that the abuse is going on and by filing a report you risk adverse consequences if SSA determines that your report was not legitimate.
Thanks to my colleague Tomasz Stasiuk whose blog post Parent Misusing Social Security Benefits inspired this post.
Are Parental Accountability Courts a Reasonable Alternative to Jail for Delinquent Child Support Payers?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an interesting article about parent accountability courts now being set up in a number of Georgia counties. The Atlanta paper describes these courts as follows:
Parental accountability courts are run by representatives from the state’s Child Support Services division. These coordinators work with the parents, serving as a mentor and directing them to existing community resources. Each court is tailored to its particular county’s need. The coordinators may be called upon to help the unemployed prepare resumes or prep for a job interview. They might refer people to drug rehabilitation programs or other support services. Once those problems are addressed and the person is established in a job, it is up to the individual to make sure the child support is paid or the court has the option to garnishee wages.
As I understand the concept, state child support enforcement offices and county jails argue that incarceration does not solve the problem of delinquent child support payments, especially when jobs are scarce anyway and an unemployed dad with a prison record is even more unlikely to find a job.