Social Security Overpays $1.3 Billion in Benefits

Heather Ginsberg

9/14/2013 3:00:00 PM - Heather Ginsberg

Here’s just another example of how our government is wasting our tax payer dollars and why our social security system needs some serious reforming. Will this finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Probably not.

A new GAO report says the federal government may have paid $1.29 billion in social security disability benefits to 36,000 people who don’t even qualify for the program. They make too much income to qualify!!! According to the report, at least one recipient alone collected a potential overpayment of $90,000 without getting caught by the Social Security Administration. But that’s not the only case of outrageous numbers; others also reported over-collecting $57,000 and $74,000.

To qualify for disability, recipients must show that they have a physical or mental impairment that prevents gainful employment and is either terminal or expected to last more than a year. Once approved, the average monthly payment to a recipient is just under $1,000.

There is a five-month waiting period during which monthly income cannot exceed $1,000 before an applicant can qualify for disability, as well as a nine-month trial period during which someone who is already receiving benefits can return to work without terminating his or her disability payments.

The GAO said that its analysis showed that about 36,000 individuals either earned too much during the waiting period or kept collecting too long after their nine-month trial period had expired. The report recommended that "to the extent that it is cost-effective and feasible," the Social Security Administration's enforcement operation should step up efforts to detect earnings during the waiting period.

In fiscal 2011, more than 10 million Americans received disability benefits totaling more than $128 billion. The GAO's report estimates that less than half of one percent of recipients might be receiving improper payments.

A spokesperson for the Social Security Administration said the agency had a "more than 99 percent accuracy rate" for paying disability benefits. "While our paymen taccuracy rates are very high, we recognize that even small payment errors cost taxpayers. We are planning to do an investigation and we will recoup any improper payments from beneficiaries."

"It is too soon to tell what caused these overpayments," said the spokesperson, "but if we determine that fraud is involved, we will refer these cases to our Office of the Inspector General for investigation."

Well isn’t that handy? Over a billion dollars of over-spending by the Social Security Administration is completely inexcusable. It’s time for reform to take hold and get rid of the abundance of fraud in this organization.