There’s been a lot of publicity lately about a new Government Accountability Office report about Social Security Disability overpayments.
According to the GAO report, released Friday, the Social Security Administration paid out $1.3 billion in disability payments to people who had jobs, even though they were classified as disabled and unable to work. An estimated 36,000 workers received improper payments from December 2010 to January 2013, according to the GAO.
And while that figure — $1.3 billion — seems huge, it doesn’t tell the entire story.
That figure represents less than 1 percent of beneficiaries and less than 1 percent of disability payments made during the three-year period.
It does not represent widespread Social Security Disability fraud or abuse by workers.
More than 8.2 million workers received disability payments in December 2010. Social Security paid out nearly $137 billion in disability benefits to 9 million recipients last year.
The Social Security Administration has questioned whether GAO overestimated the overpayments.
According to an Associated Press news report:
GAO said the overpayments reveal weaknesses in Social Security’s procedures for policing the system.
“The report lays out clear, common-sense steps that the agency can and should take in order to avoid improper payments,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “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.”
The Social Security Administration said its accuracy rate for disability payments is more than 99 percent. But the agency noted that even small errors translate into big numbers.
“We are planning to do an investigation, and we will recoup any improper payments from beneficiaries,” Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said.