The Social Security Administration will begin screening the “representative payees” who receive benefits on behalf of disabled or mentally ill individuals. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who has been pushing for greater scrutiny, was in Philadelphia Monday to announce a three- to six-month pilot program of checking the representatives through the SSA database.”You can’t have millions of people out there, acting as representative payees, taking other people’s resources, and not having been through a robust background check,” Casey said.There are plans — and legislation in the works — to include criminal databases as part of the background checks.
The change follows serious abuses uncovered last fall.In what became known as the “Tacony dungeon” case, four mentally disabled adults were discovered in a basement in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. Their captors have been charging with holding them against their will while collecting their benefits.One representative payee, Linda Weston, had a prior conviction for starving a man to death. Her trial in the Tacony case is set to begin in January.