A sweeping New York criminal case charging more than 100 people with faking psychiatric problems to get federal disability benefits is spotlighting the complicated role consultants play in the system.

The Manhattan district attorney said this week the decades-long scam netted more than $20 million in Social Security disability payments for more than 100 people, including dozens of former police officers and some ex-firefighters.

Prosecutors say three benefits experts and an attorney who helped the applicants netted tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. Those four and some other defendants have pleaded not guilty. Others are awaiting arraignment.

Experts say benefits advisers can provide valuable help in understanding what's needed, compiling information and navigating bureaucratic complexities. But they acknowledge the boundary between explaining and gaming the system can be tricky.