US sen. from Pa.: Expand Social Security screening

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013
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Through Jan. 23, 100 people were rejected from becoming payees, Casey said.

The stepped-up effort stems from the 2011 arrest of parolee Linda Weston of Philadelphia.

Weston faces state and federal charges for allegedly tricking mentally disabled people into making her their payee while she kept them captive in squalid basements, attics and closets. Federal prosecutors allege she caused the deaths of two people through abuse and neglect.

Weston, 52, maintains her innocence, and has pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

Weston served prison time decades ago for starving a man to death, but her past went undetected for years while she allegedly profited from other people's government benefits. Federal law prohibits anyone who has been incarcerated for more than a year from becoming a payee.

A recent inspector general's report indicated the Social Security Administration was not effectively enforcing the law, instead relying on applicants to self-report the information.

Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle has previously said key stumbling blocks to more vigorous screening are the agency's lack of access to government databases with criminal background information and a dearth of staff to perform checks on each applicant.

Casey introduced legislation in November 2011 that would give the agency access to better criminal databases, including the one used by the FBI. He said the Social Security Administration's in-house records are not comprehensive enough. Congress did not act on the bill last session, and Casey plans to reintroduce it.

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