Fraud Abounds in California’s Disabled-Parking Program

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – The California Department of Motor Vehicles likely issued more than 1 million disabled-person parking placards between 2013 and 2016 without verifying applicants’ disabilities and doesn’t always cancel the placards of deceased individuals, according to the state auditor.

Citing the likelihood of fraud and abuse within the state’s disabled-person parking program, the audit called for wide-scale legislative changes to the DMV’s method of issuing placards.

“DMV does not have a process to review medical-provider signatures to ensure that they are legitimate,” the audit states. “When DMV does not ensure that applicants include complete certifications, it creates opportunity for individuals to receive placards without a qualifying diagnosis.”

According to the audit, there are nearly 3 million placards in circulation as of June 2016. The placards exempt users from parking meters, time-limited spaces and allow them to park in designated parking spaces.

An applicant is required by state law to fully describe their disability and provide certification from their doctor, but not their full legal name or date of birth.

However, the report says the DMV doesn’t have a sound method of verifying medical certifications and often accepts fraudulent applications. The audit examined 96 applications and doubted the signatures of 17 medical providers.

“Projecting this percentage of questionable signatures to the population of applications, we estimate that more than 260,000 applications approved from July 2013 to June 2016 may not be valid,” according to the 59-page audit.

It also highlighted that the DMV has no limit on the number of replacement placards an individual can receive. Auditors found that in a three-year span, two people each received more than 20 replacement placards, while nine others were sent 16 or more replacements.

The report, which was requested by former Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto, identified a horde of placards issued to individuals who have died or are over the age of 100. While state data pegged California’s centenarian population at 8,000 in 2014, there are nearly 26,000 placards out there issued to individuals aged 100 or older.

State Auditor Elaine Howle recommended that lawmakers pass legislation requiring the DMV to perform quarterly audits of the placard program and limit the number of replacement placards to two per individual. She also suggests applicants be required to show proof of their full legal name and that the DMV improve communications with health boards that verify disabilities.

Howle also called for more frequent sting operations and new procedures that will make it easier for parking enforcement to identify fraudulent placards. She says currently only sworn officers can verify placards, forcing parking enforcement to call police departments for verifications.

The DMV said it agrees with Howle’s recommendations and that it will implement them.

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