Washington Free Beacon had a sobering article about the lack of fiduciary responsibility in the Social Security Administration. A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that for 5 years (FY2009-FY2013), disability payments totaling $371.5 million were overpaid to many individuals. “The report examined how concurrent Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) payments affect Disability Insurance (DI) overpayments.”
The most recent annual Social Security Trustees report showed that the projected date of insolvency for the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund is late 2016, a date that remained unchanged from the prior year. With this crisis looming in the background, the report of overpayments is especially concerning. From the article:
“The GAO found that SSA did not detect concurrent FECA payments for about 1,040 individuals during at least one month from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014.
To test SSA’s internal controls, GAO randomly selected 20 beneficiaries for review. In all 20 cases, SSA’s controls failed to detect and prevent overpayments. In seven of the cases, SSA did not detect overpayments for more than a decade, and each of these individuals received $100,000 in overpaid benefits.
One of these seven individuals received FECA benefits in the 1980s and was approved for disability benefits 14 years later in 1994. The GAO found that this individual received $200,000 in overpayments for more than 20 years.
The SSA’s “internal controls” rely on beneficiaries to self-report overpayments.
“SSA officials told us that if beneficiaries do not self-report benefits, there are no system prompts that would alert SSA staff to ask beneficiaries if they are receiving any workers’ compensation benefits, including FECA payments,” states GAO. “SSA officials agreed that relying on beneficiaries to self-report benefits presents a challenge in identifying overpayments related to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits.'”
Congress is aware of the projected date of insolvency, but has yet to agree on a path forward. What’s more, the date roughly coincides with the 2016 election, so of course no one is willing right now to make any decisions or provide any possible solutions. Without any changes, benefits will be reduced by nearly 20%. Currently the Disability Trust Fund provides more than $100 billion a year to roughly 11 million recipients, making it the largest government assistance program in the country.