From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Love Buying Christmas Presents, and I Hate Fraud Waste and Abuse in Government Offices



I got my daughter Meredith three little tables for Christmas, a coffee table, and two end tables.  She wants to get an apartment for the first time in her life.  She has had a seizure disorder since birth, it was diagnosed by Dr. Brown, a pediatric neurologist in Lubbock, Texas as Second Decade Onset, Hereditary Epilepsy.  She suffered a near drowning when she was fourteen, when she had her first grand mal seizure.  She has tried many times to work, but she is always fired for some reason.  These firings alway occur right after she has a seizure at work and falls.  Of course it is against the law to fire someone who has a handicapping condition... but then a lot of things are against the law.

I am writing two blog posts specifically for the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  They are the story of what has happened to my daughter at the hands of  the Social Security Administration office in Abilene, Texas, and more specifically at the hands of the specialist who has handled Meredith's case, Ms. Alicia Flores, and her supervisor, David.  

My daughter was first approved for Social Security benefits in September in a court hearing in front of a judge and five committee members.  She has been applying for benefits for many years, and was  turned down repeatedly.  Finally she received the judgment deeming her qualified.  She then was given a case worker from the Abilene Social Security Administration office named Alicia Flores.

At first Ms. Flores told my daughter she had to have income information from her father, and from her boyfriend.  That didn't sound right to either one of them.  My daughter lives with her father, and so does her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend pays room and board for his one third of the cost of the household.  When Meredth had moved in, her dad had said they would split the cost of household, and she could pay him  the incurred expenses when she received her social security benefits.  I cannot believe that Ms. Flores didn't have access to the Code of Federal Regulations, and the following informaton taken from Section 416.1165.  Oddly enough, after her father wrote a letter stating that Meredith had promised to pay him back room and board fees once she began receiving benefits, that requirement was dropped.  However, as I read this regulation it should have never been requested.

Deeming of Income

§ 416.1160. What is deeming of income?

(a) General. We use the term deeming to identify the process of considering another person's income to be your own. When the deeming rules apply, it does not matter whether the income of the other person is actually available to you. We must apply these rules anyway. There are four categories of individuals whose income may be deemed to you.

§ 416.1165. How we deem income to you from your ineligible parent(s).

 ( 7) You attain age 18. In the month following the month in which you attain age 18 and thereafter, we do not deem your ineligible parent's income to you to determine your eligibility for SSI benefits. In determining your benefit amount beginning with the month following your attainment of age 18, we only use your own countable income in a prior month, excluding any income deemed to you in that month from your ineligible parent (see § 416.1160(b)(2)(B)). Your income for the current and subsequent months must include any income in the form of cash or in-kind support and maintenance provided by your parents.

Meredith's boyfriend has always been charged room and board for himself by her father since he moved in, and he and her father both feel that the request of this information is an invasion of their privacy, and completely unrelated to Meredith's benefits status.  Quiet frankly, I think it is an illegal invasion of privacy.   Meredith's boyfriend took very serious exception to the request for his income information, as he and Meredith DO NOT present themselves to the community as married, never have, and aren't at this point in their relationship ready to make a marriage committment.  When Meredith advised Ms. Flores that the boyfriend refused to give his income information, and asked Ms. Flores how she proposed that she was supposed to get that information, Ms. Flores offered no suggestions. 

Ms. Flores has been out of her office for a great deal of the time since my daughter sent in a requested form stating that her boyfriend refused to turn over his income information, as he and Meredith are both uncertain as to whether they wish to marry or not, and certainly do not hold themselves out to the community as married, and never have.  In each conversation with Ms. Flores, Meredith has been threatened by Ms. Flores, with her stating to Meredith, "it is against the law to lie to the government."  Meredith keeps telling her, "I understand that, and have never had any intention of lying to the government, as I am an honest person."  I don't understand why Ms. Flores has the right to accuse my daughter of dishonesty.  As of her latest advisement, Ms. Flores stated to my daughter in a phone conversation on the 13th of December that Meredith would not receive her back pay, and that all paychecks due her from here forward, would be held until her boyfriend moved out of the household.  Since when did our government assume such control and power over the lives of its' citizens?

This demand for her boyfriend's income information kind of odd in the first place as there is clear advisement from the Social Security Administration's governing policy that clearly addresses this issue.  When Meredith spoke to Ms. Flores' superviso,r David, earlier last week, he advised Meredith that according to her case file, she had told Ms. Flores that she was married in a phone conversation on November 12th.  That is a plain flat out lie on either Ms. Flores' part, or her supervisor David's part.  Further, her supervisor, David advised Meredith that her Ms. Flores had deemed her ineligible for benefits, based on her husband's income.  See that is the odd part... if Ms. Flores already has Meredith's  boyfriend's income information, how did she get it, and why is she demanding that Meredith get it from him.  The following is the information I found online concerning the policies of the Social Security Administration on this subject.

§ 416.1160. What is deeming of income?

(a.)


(1) Ineligible spouse. If you live in the same household with your ineligible spouse, we look at your spouse's income to decide whether we must deem some of it to you. We do this because we expect your spouse to use some of his or her income to take care of some of your needs.

In an Issue Paper by the Social Security Administration the following guidance is issued:
No. 2003-01
December 2003
Treatment of Married Couples
in the SSI Program

The Social Security Act defines the rules for determin-
ing marital relationships for SSI recipients. Appropri-
ate state law is applied in determining whether a man
and a woman are married, except that if a man and
woman have been considered as husband and wife for
purposes of Social Security benefits, they are also
considered married for purposes of SSI.
2
The act also requires that if a man and a woman
are found to be “holding out”—that is, presenting
themselves to the community as husband and wife—
they should be considered married for purposes of the
SSI program. An example of such a relationship is
one in which the couple are not legally married but
consider themselves as being in a common-law
marriage. If a member of the couple denies holding
out but evidence exists to the contrary, both individuals
must complete a questionnaire gathering information
about bills, mail, and housing arrangements.
Some advocates regard this procedure as administratively
burdensome and as infringing on personal privacy.
Such concerns have resulted in recommendations to
eliminate the concept of holding out and to treat as
spouses only those individuals who are legally married
(see, for example, Social Security Administration
1992).


I read and understand what I read as well as the next person, and based on the  above information, I wish to make a complaint to the U.S. Government Accountability Office concerning the practices of the employees of the Abilene, Texas Social Security Administration Office  My daughter's experience has been to be at the mercy of abuse of power and fraud by Ms. Alicia Flores and her supervisor.  I have no way of knowing what motivates either of these persons.   At this time I am formally making complaint to the GAO, and asking for an audit and investigation of the Abilene Texas Social Security Office. I am emailing a copy of this post to the email address listed on the GAO web site,   contact@gao.gov