Background Checks Done in Philadelphia-area Pilot Program for Social Security

We all want to believe that extra care and respect is shown toward the elderly in our communities, as they are among the most vulnerable of our population. To ensure this, a pilot-program launched in Philadelphia in 2012 has taken steps to guard against people who might be inclined to take advantage of those on social security.

According to an article on, the pilot program did background checks on those known as “representative payees” — a person who collects social security disability benefits for those who aren’t able to handle their own finances. If it was found that the representative payee had committed one of 12 crimes, including robbery, forgery, or identity theft, they were rejected as a representative of the individual seeking benefits.

In order to make the determination, the Social Security employees would access public records, or third-party databases. They would not have access to the FBI’s criminal database. The Social Security Administration feels the pilot-program has been a success, as screeners have flagged less than 1 percent of the 34,850 applicants.

Now the program is being expanded nationally. In the article, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-PA is quoted as saying, “While this expansion is a good step, it’s not the end of our efforts. We’ve got to monitor this program closely to make sure it works and that every person who applies to be a representative payee goes through a criminal background check.”

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