Social Security Overpayments Hit $1.3 Billion

The Social Security Administration may have made a few overpayments between December 2010 and January 2013.

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, close to $1.3 billion in social security overpayments was handed out to about 36,000 individuals.

The CS Monitor reports that most of the improper disability payments were handed out to people who already had jobs. Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle noted that the overpayments represent less than 1% of beneficiaries and less than 1% of disability payments.

Hinkle said that the SSA would be investigating to see if what caused the overpayments.

Hinkle said: “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, but if we determine that fraud is involved, we will refer these cases to our office of the inspector general for investigation.”

CNN reports that disabled workers can receive benefits for up to nine months after they enter a work trial. The GOA report states that the SSA continued to hand out payments long after the nine-month period had ended. The report includes two examples: One involves a woman who received $74,000 after the nine-month period was over and another involved a man who received $57,000 in social security overpayments.

Hinkle added: “While our payment accuracy rates are very high, we recognize that even small payment errors cost taxpayers.”

Fox News reports that more than $137 billion was paid out to close to 9 million disable workers last year.

The Social Security’s disability program is currently facing a financial crisis. The administration will run out of funds for the disability program by 2016 and is asking for help from congress. The GAO said that it has provided recommendations to the Social Security Administration to avoid future overpayments but added that it still needs congress to act soon.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said: “The report lays out clear, common-sense steps that the agency can and should take in order to avoid improper payments… However, if we’re serious about preventing waste and fraud and ensuring that these critical benefits get to the people who need and deserve them, Congress must also do its part and provide needed resources and access to basic anti-fraud data to the Social Security Administration.”