Nearly $17 billion overpaid in Social Security disability payments

A record number of Americans are receiving Social Security disability benefits, and it appears that a lot of the beneficiaries either are ineligible or received overpayments by SSA.

Washington Free Beacon:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) made nearly $17 billion in disability overpayments in the last decade, according to an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Some beneficiaries were able to receive disability benefits for 10 years, even though they were ineligible. The OIG based its estimate of $16.8 billion overpayments on a sample of more than 1,500 Americans who received benefits since 2003, finding nearly half were overpaid.

“Our review of 1,532 beneficiaries in current pay status as of October 2003 found that over a 10-year period (from October 2003 through February 2014), SSA assessed overpayments for 44.5 percent of sampled beneficiaries,” the audit said.

“SSA assessed overpayments totaling about $16.8 billion between October 2003 and February 2014 for approximately 4 million beneficiaries who were in current payment status in October 2003,” it said.

The agency was able to recover approximately $8.1 billion, though it is still trying to retrieve $6.3 billion in benefits.

The average beneficiary in the OIG’s sample received improper payments for 14 months. Most earned too much or were able to work, making them ineligible for disability.

The findings included 216,070 payments to fugitives or prisoners, and 209,643 payments to dead people.

Responding to the audit on behalf of the agency, Frank Cristaudo, counselor to SSA Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, disputed that all payments were improper. He said federal law requires the agency to continue paying beneficiaries who may be medically ineligible until after they appeal, a process that can take years.

“We appreciate OIG’s follow-up work from the previous review,” Cristaudo said. “While the report does not contain any recommendations, we suggest some further clarification of the text of the report.”

We know that at least 10% of disability payments went to totally ineligible people – felons and the dead.  But the unanswered question is, how many of the 11 million recipients of disability are really and truly eligible?

While there are no doubt several million people deserving of these benefits – disabled vets come to mind – there is also evidence that of all federal programs, Social Security disability may be the easiest to scam.  Anecdotal evidence abounds of supposedly crippled people miraculously playing golf or other sports, or working around the house with apparent ease of movement.  No system has yet been developed that can sniff out the scammers and make sure the benefits go to to where they are intended.

I'm afraid the IG has revealed only the tip of a very large iceberg.

A record number of Americans are receiving Social Security disability benefits, and it appears that a lot of the beneficiaries either are ineligible or received overpayments by SSA.

Washington Free Beacon:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) made nearly $17 billion in disability overpayments in the last decade, according to an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Some beneficiaries were able to receive disability benefits for 10 years, even though they were ineligible. The OIG based its estimate of $16.8 billion overpayments on a sample of more than 1,500 Americans who received benefits since 2003, finding nearly half were overpaid.

“Our review of 1,532 beneficiaries in current pay status as of October 2003 found that over a 10-year period (from October 2003 through February 2014), SSA assessed overpayments for 44.5 percent of sampled beneficiaries,” the audit said.

“SSA assessed overpayments totaling about $16.8 billion between October 2003 and February 2014 for approximately 4 million beneficiaries who were in current payment status in October 2003,” it said.

The agency was able to recover approximately $8.1 billion, though it is still trying to retrieve $6.3 billion in benefits.

The average beneficiary in the OIG’s sample received improper payments for 14 months. Most earned too much or were able to work, making them ineligible for disability.

The findings included 216,070 payments to fugitives or prisoners, and 209,643 payments to dead people.

Responding to the audit on behalf of the agency, Frank Cristaudo, counselor to SSA Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, disputed that all payments were improper. He said federal law requires the agency to continue paying beneficiaries who may be medically ineligible until after they appeal, a process that can take years.

“We appreciate OIG’s follow-up work from the previous review,” Cristaudo said. “While the report does not contain any recommendations, we suggest some further clarification of the text of the report.”

We know that at least 10% of disability payments went to totally ineligible people – felons and the dead.  But the unanswered question is, how many of the 11 million recipients of disability are really and truly eligible?

While there are no doubt several million people deserving of these benefits – disabled vets come to mind – there is also evidence that of all federal programs, Social Security disability may be the easiest to scam.  Anecdotal evidence abounds of supposedly crippled people miraculously playing golf or other sports, or working around the house with apparent ease of movement.  No system has yet been developed that can sniff out the scammers and make sure the benefits go to to where they are intended.

I'm afraid the IG has revealed only the tip of a very large iceberg.