During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning regarding an increase in identity theft cases and unemployment fraud. Unfortunately, this fraud can negatively impact public benefits for the most vulnerable members of our society. At Nassau Suffolk Law Services, we have been helping fraud victims navigate the process to reinstate their needs-based benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, after becoming victims of unemployment fraud. If not detected and addressed promptly, unemployment fraud victims may experience termination of benefits and face other sanctions with potentially long-lasting implications.
In one such case, a client contacted Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Disability Advocacy Project (DAP) after receiving an SSI discontinuation notice due to alleged receipt of unemployment benefits. The claimant adamantly denied requesting or receiving any such benefits. Staff Attorney Sarah Kupferberg's first step was to submit an online request for reconsideration with the Social Security Administration requesting what are known as "Goldberg-Kelly" continuing benefits. "Goldberg-Kelly" allows claimants to continue receiving benefits during the reconsideration process. While Goldberg-Kelly benefits must be requested within 10-days of the denial letter, Kupferberg also submitted a statement of Good Cause explaining why the claimant was unable to comply with the 10-day requirement. Kupferberg also asked for a formal conference to allow time to collect evidence.
Kupferberg then immediately called the New York State Department of Labor Fraud Hotline to report the fraud. The DOL worker indicated that the client’s case was already under investigation at the major case unit. We requested an expedited letter be sent to the client indicating that there was a fraud on his account. The Department of Labor sent the request to the appropriate division.
Kupferberg also submitted an Identity Theft Report for the client through the FTC website and sent the report to the Social Security Administration with a letter asking for time to receive and submit the letter from the Department of Labor.
Once SSA received the documentation from the DOL of the fraud investigation, the client’s benefits were promptly reinstated.