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Would-be investigation of disability fraud goes awry

Americans work hard. Perhaps more than any other culture, even notoriously workaholic Japan, our culture greatly values work. With the growth of online commerce, it’s increasingly a 24 /7, 365 proposition.

Yet disability rolls in the U.S. have grown. In large part, this is because of an aging population and an expanded definition of disability under federal law. In Missouri and across the country, however, the growth of disability claims has prompted concerns about disability fraud.

A controversial case of such concern is playing out now in Missouri. This week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial criticizing Tim Jones, the speaker of the Missouri House, for launching an allegedly ill-conceived investigation into possible fraud by people collecting disability benefits.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the speaker may have authorized the use of a state computer by a federal special agent to hack into a secure state computer network in search of evidence about disability fraud. The goal was apparently to gain access to a list of conceal-carry permit holders — and then compare the names on that list to a list of people drawing disability benefits.

But the process used to pursue this data was highly questionable. Under Missouri law, the conceal-carry weapons (CCW) list is classified as a closed record. To be sure, there is an exception to this for law enforcement investigations. Yet a legislative body or one of its committees is not the proper one to make use of such an exception.

Indeed, the Post-Dispatch editorial board believes that the computer hacking initiated by the speaker may even have violated state law. The board points to Missouri Code section 569.095 on the crime of computer tampering.

Source: Editorial: Speaker must be held accountable for House hacking,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial Board, 5-7-13

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