Casey pushes to close Social Security loophole in Philly basement abuse case

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has unveiled legislation to close a loophole in the Social Security system. Casey wants to prevent a repeat of a recent Philadelphia case in which suspects collected Social Security checks for others, even though they would have failed a routine criminal background check.

“It’s outrageous and it further undermines people’s confidence in a major agency of the federal government,” Casey said. “It’s outrageous when people see very vulnerable people preyed upon by someone who should have been flagged a long time ago.”

Casey said the legislation won’t just protect vulnerable Americans. It also will safeguard federal dollars by allowing the Social Security Administration to access existing government databases that identify violent criminals who would not be eligible to serve as representative payees–the designation of the suspects in the basement abuse case.

“To make sure that the Social Security Administration has a better system of checking something as basic as a background check,” Casey said of his legislative intent. “So that if someone is a representative payee that’s supposed to help somebody, they’re not allowed to do that if they have a criminal conviction of one kind or another–especially a homicide conviction, as was the case here.”

The case involves a woman, previously convicted of homicide, who is accused of locking mentally disabled people in a squalid basement and cashing their checks. The scam continued for years, authorities have said.

Casey’s bill would also increase the number of Social Security Administration fraud investigators so that every one who applies to be a representative payee goes through a criminal background check.

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