Bipartisan Congress Panel Grills SSA Official Over Dysfunction

( – The Social Security Administration (SSA) is under fire yet again, this time for the seemingly poor customer service it provides to applicants who are seeking benefits. Earlier this month, Congress slammed the agency for demanding repayments from recipients who unintentionally received an overpayment of benefits. Recipients were losing monthly benefits, facing garnishment, or losing federal tax refund dollars because of the demand for repayment. Over $21 million has yet to be recovered, and lawmakers have blamed the agency’s aging system for the unintentional overpayments.

During a recent congressional hearing, lawmakers scolded SSA acting assistant deputy commissioner Linda Kerr-David for providing poor customer service. Applicants spent around 36 minutes waiting on hold to speak to agents, which is an increase of four minutes per customer since 2022. Applicants are waiting twice as long for approval as they did in 2019, with the agency taking an average of 220 days to issue a decision. Georgia Republican Representative Drew Ferguson pointed out that the agency is spending money to get more applicants to make benefits claims but cannot keep up with the claims that have already been made. He accused the agency of “sitting on solutions that would modernize and streamline the claims process.”

Iowa Republican Representative Randy Feenstra told Kerr-David that “the system is broken,” asking her what she was going to do to fix it. She told lawmakers that she was sending staff members across the country to regional offices to pick up the slack. In addition, she has been working with governors in certain states to help recruit and retain staff.

Previously, SSA’s acting commissioner, Kilolo Kijakazi, blamed short staffing for the overpayment problems and notified Congress that she was conducting a formal review. She claimed that the process for overpayments was done on a case-by-case basis and that there was no automated system that seized overpayments from recipients. The agency also said that it would be reviewing the procedures it follows when seeking the return of overpayments.

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