Social Security needs to take corrective action to reduce overpayments

An overpayment is messy.  It results when either the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) makes a mistake or when a claimant fails to notify the SSA about income or resources.  Either way it is messy.   The SSA then takes action to recover the over payment.  Usually they wait too long and by the time the SSA requests it, they are claiming that the claimant owes thousands of dollars.  Usually claimants do not have the money to pay it back and attorneys are reluctant to take a case because there is not a way for the claimant to pay the overpayment, much less an attorney.
Certainly not all overpayments are the SSA’s fault and it does take time to track them down.  Nevertheless, the longer the wait, the more it costs the claimant and in the end, the American tax payer.
The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) for the Social Security Administration recently released a report, Concurrent Beneficiaries Improperly Receiving Payments in Excess of Federal Limits.  (Concurrent beneficiaries are those who are eligible for both SSI and Disability Insurance benefits.)  The OIG reviewed the records of 14,800 concurrent beneficiaries.  Out of that group, they found:

  • 246 concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in excess of Federal limits for undetermined reasons;
  • 2,349 concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in
    excess of Federal limits because of system-related payment
    computation errors;
  • 152 additional concurrent beneficiaries received combined payments in
    excess of Federal limits because of system-related payment
    computation errors that had been previously reported to the SSA in a prior audit .  In 2011, SSA reported it had taken corrective action to resolve these errors. However, payment errors on these records persisted.

The good news is that the problem numbers seem small when considering that the OIG reviewed the records of 14,800 people.  The bad news is that even though the numbers are small, they add up.  The OIG estimates these errors resulted in approximately $3.4 million in improper SSI payments. If the Agency does not correct these errors, they estimate it will issue approximately $2 million in additional excessive SSI payments to these beneficiaries over the next 12 months.

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