A federal grand jury charged a former Missouri state representative Tuesday with illegally drawing Social Security disability payments while serving in the General Assembly.
Raymond E. Salva, a Sugar Creek Democrat, allegedly collected about $60,000 in disability payments while earning $30,000 a year for his legislative work between January 2003 and December 2010, prosecutors said.
The indictment stated that Salva, 65, was not entitled to receive the disability payments because he intentionally concealed his earnings and work as a state lawmaker.
Salva could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. But court records showed that he told investigators last year that he did not consider his position as a state legislator to be work "because it required him to use his mind rather than his body."
"He said he considered work to be physical labor," the investigators reported.
Salva also told investigators that before taking office he confirmed with someone in Washington, D.C., that working as a state representative would not affect his eligibility for disability payments. But when asked, he could not identify that person.
Social Security approved disability payments for Salva in February 2000 after he filed an application saying that he had injured his neck in a farm accident.
The government made efforts over the years to reconfirm his eligibility and collect overpayments. In a 2011 appearance before an administrative law judge, court records said, Salva said he "took it for granted" that he was eligible because Social Security kept paying him.
"I didn't take those checks saying, 'Oh boy, I'm screwing somebody here,' " Salva said, according to court records. "It was because I didn't know. I just didn't know."