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Report finds that SSA overpaid $17B in disability benefits

A deeply critical new report says that the Social Security Administration overpaid disability benefits by nearly $17 billion over the past decade. The findings led one U.S. senator to say that the errors deprived those who rightfully deserved the payments.

However, the SSA says it has a nearly perfect record for avoiding overpayment or underpayment of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits. The agency says that in fiscal year 2013, 99.8 percent of Social Security payments had no overpayment.

The study, conducted by the SSA’s inspector general, used a sampling of 1,532 people receiving either SSD or SSI benefits in October 2003. Auditors followed the group’s payment records until February 2014. They said that 45 percent of the sampled group received an overpayment at some point during the test period, for a total of $2.9 million in undue payments.

Extrapolating from there, the inspector general’s office determined that SSI must have issued around $16.8 billion in overpayments to SSD and SSI recipients overall. Many such payments go to people who earned too much income to qualify; others go to people who are no longer disabled, according to the Associated Press. Sometimes, SSA continues to issue payments to people who are deceased or in prison.

As readers likely already know, the trust fund that supports SSD is projected to run out of money in 2016, which would eventually lead to reduced payments if Congress does not take action. In reaction to the inspector general report, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that payment errors “no doubt contributed” to the fund’s depletion.

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