Today, Governor Eric Greitens announced the results of an investigation into possible fraud in Missouri’s Blind Pension system. The investigation showed that hundreds of people currently claim to be blind, and receive taxpayer-paid benefits for it, while also claiming the ability to drive.
“We’re rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in our government to guard taxpayer dollars, and to protect Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. Our team found people in Missouri who were taking money from the taxpayers because they claim to be blind—all while driving, speeding, and even driving drunk.
That’s right. We did an investigation, and we found that 436 individuals who get a Blind Pension benefit—at least $738 a month of taxpayer money—also have a valid driver’s license. One had a license to drive a commercial truck. One had multiple driving violations and a DWI. One was already under investigation for providing false information for a different program.
People who are abusing this system aren’t just stealing from taxpayers, they’re stealing from the most vulnerable—the people who need those funds. They can’t rip you off on our watch. We’re holding them accountable,” said Governor Greitens.
An investigation launched by the Department of Social Services, with the help of the Department of Revenue, found that 436 individuals who received a Blind Pension benefit also had a current or had renewed/obtained their Missouri driver’s license while receiving a blind pension. Each one receives $738 a month, as well as state-funded health insurance. The Department of Social Services, Family Support Division (FSD) decided to investigate after an increasing number of Blind Pension applicants presented a valid Missouri driver’s license. A person has to have better vision to qualify for a driver’s license than to qualify for a Blind Pension. Therefore, FSD questioned why there were so many blind pensioners with a Missouri driver’s license.
At least one hundred individuals are currently under investigation by the DSS Welfare Investigations Unit (WIU), which investigates reports of possible fraud, waste, or abuse of welfare benefits.
According to the Department of Social Services, WIU referrals included:
- A truck driver with a commercial driver’s license;
- An individual with multiple driving violations including DWI, fleeing from multiple speeding tickets; and
- An individual already under WIU investigation who may have also presented false information to support an application for a housing subsidy.
The Blind Pension program is financed entirely by state funds. The program provides assistance for blind persons who do not qualify under the Supplemental Aid to the Blind law and who are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Each eligible person receives a monthly cash grant of $738, as well as state funded MO HealthNet coverage.