Audit: Social Security Administration Overpaid $16.8 Billion In Disability Benefits Over Decade, Recovered About Half

social security
AP/Bradly C. Bower

Over a ten year period, the Social Security Administration is estimated to have overpaid $16.8 billion in disability benefits, according to a new audit from SSA’s watchdog.

In an report released this week, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General looked at a sample of 1,532 disability beneficiaries’ — on Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — pay status from October 2003 to February 2014 and found overpayments for 44.5 percent of their sample.

Extrapolated out, the OIG estimated “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.”

The OIG further gauged, based on the sample, that the agency was able to recover $8.1 billion of the overpayments and prevented another $8 billion in overpayments to another 1 million beneficiaries in that ten year period.

According to the report, “Work activity or change in income” was the reason accounting for the greatest percentage of overpayments, at 35 percent.

“Medical improvement” was the second most cited reason with 23.8 percent of the overpayments. The SSA notes, however that such overpayments were unavoidable as the “Social Security Act” requires the agency to continue payments during a beneficiary’s appeals process if SSA determines the individual to no longer be disabled.

Other reasons included: “Multiple-reason combined overpayment” with 8.6 percent, “Imprisonment or fugitive status” constituted 7.5 percent, and “Payment issued after death” was 7.2 percent.

Other less common reasons included: “Reason not specified on the beneficiaries’ payment records,” “Improperly entitled to benefits,” “Incorrect payment computation,” “Financial resources exceeded the SSI resource limit,” “Duplicate check negotiations for the same month,” “Change in living arrangements,” and “Other.”


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