SSA Faces Scrutiny Over $6 Billion Annual Overpayment Issue, Senators Demand Action

SSA Faces Scrutiny Over $6 Billion Annual Overpayment Issue, Senators Demand Action
Cover Image Source: The Social Security Administration office | Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow believe that overpayment problems can take years to detect, and can result in economic adversity for millions of Americans, including seniors. That's why they have urged the Social Security Administration to crack down on overpayment errors. "We have heard from numerous Michiganders regarding the impact unexpected overpayments that were sent by the SSA have caused on some of the most vulnerable beneficiaries of Social Security," the senators wrote in a letter earlier this month.

Source: GettyImages | Spencer Platt  Staff
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt Staff

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"Overpayments can pose incredibly difficult hardships on beneficiaries who've committed no wrongdoing and are now responsible for repaying improper payments. Because of their devastating impact, the agency must improve its processes and controls to reduce the number of overpayments for beneficiaries who rely on these critical benefits," they stated.



 

As per the SSA, they have distributed more than $6 billion in new overpayments each year. According to their most recent financial report, the agency paid close to $11 billion in new overpayment during 2022 out of which $2 billion never returned.

The Senators asked SSA to "address the longstanding challenge to prevent and reduce overpayments for Social Security recipients" in a letter to the commissioner of SSA. The letter also questions the agency's plans to correct the problems and improve payment accuracy.

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As per the lawmakers, errors can happen due to many reasons but most of the time it occurs due to errors on SSA's part. For example, in some cases, the SSA has miscalculated the recipient’s benefits or has not taken their other benefits into account. Furthermore, instances of overpayment can occur due to various reasons, such as when a recipient's income exceeds the allowable limit, changes in their living arrangements or marital status, or if they possess resources that surpass the permitted threshold.



 

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For each of these people, an overpaid notice is sent out. "Each person’s situation is unique, and the agency handles overpayments on a case-by-case basis,” the SSA said in a statement last year.

In a recent incident, a woman named Delfina Prisock's world shook when she received a notice from the Social Security Administration in May 2023, informing her that she was obliged to pay $41,514.00, as a result of an overpayment. "We paid you $87.250.00 for June 2020 through April 2023. Since we should have paid you $45,736.00...we paid you $41,514.00 more than you were due," the letter stated.

Cover Image Source: YouTube | Fox 4 Dallas-Fort
Image Source: YouTube | Fox 4 Dallas-Fort

In another incident, a woman named Lori said that she received a letter from Social Security saying that she owed them $121,000 for overpaid benefits. "I am so scared I'm going to lose everything," she told ABC last year.

As per Rebecca Vallas, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, "Overpayments push already struggling beneficiaries even deeper into poverty and hardship, which is directly counterproductive to the goals" of safety-net programs.

Source: GettyImages  |  William Thomas Cain  Stringer
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by William Thomas Cain Stringer

Annually, the SSA disburses over $1.4 trillion to approximately 71 million beneficiaries, with around 2 million residing in Michigan alone. Retirement benefits from the SSA can commence as early as 62 years old, with the maximum monthly retirement payout reaching $4,873. This peak benefit amount is typically received by individuals with the highest earnings who opt to retire at the age of 70.

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