SSA Under Fire for Requesting Refunds

( – After a recent Social Security Administration (SSA) inspector general’s report hit the media airwaves, the agency is facing backlash for demanding beneficiaries return overpayments they received. The agency stands behind its methods of recovering overpayments, which include temporarily lowering or stopping monthly benefits, deducting the overpayment from federal income tax refunds, or garnishing paychecks. However, acting SSA commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi announced a formal review of the overpayment recovery process.

Before the announcement, a spokesperson for SSA said that the agency “is required by law to adjust benefits or recover debts” when people receive payments they are not entitled to receive. The spokesperson also said that there is no automated system that seizes payments from beneficiaries, but that each overpayment identified is handled separately. The spokesperson went on to defend the rate of accuracy of the agency, noting that less than half of one percent of payments are overpayments. The spokesperson also said that the agency has faced staff shortages.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have addressed the inspector general’s report. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, recently demanded the problem be fixed. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., responded on X, formerly Twitter, to Kijakazi’s announcement of a review team, writing that he was “glad to see swift action being taken.” Social Security benefits are received by people who are aged 62 or older, as well as disabled people who worked enough years to qualify for benefits. Millions rely on the benefits to pay their monthly bills. Data from the inspector general showed that the agency recovered $4.7 billion from overpayments in fiscal year 2022, but $21.6 billion had not yet been recovered. Representative Mike Carey, R-Ohio, who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Social Security, called for hearings to be held on the overpayments. Representative Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., believes that SSA should cease its demands for repayment and implement a new system to eliminate the problem. Lawmakers were shocked to learn that some people are receiving notices to repay tens of thousands of dollars of money that they had likely already spent.

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