Symptom of the Disease: $6.5 billion in SSI disability overpayments in 2009

Oh heck … only $6.5 billion? When you have a centralized federal government program designed to hand disability payments directly to individuals, it’s kind of like having the executive leadership of General Motors changing the oil in your SUV. It’s an unsuitable arrangement, and as such, a symptom of the disease.

Hat tip to Sweetness & Light, who points to this gem from the Associated Press.

In all, about 10 percent of the payments made by the agency’s Supplemental Security Income program were improper, said Patrick P. O’Carroll Jr., the inspector general for Social Security. The program has strict limits on income and assets, and most of the overpayments went to people who did not report all their resources, O’Carroll said.

Error rates were much smaller for retirement, survivor and disability benefits, which make up the overwhelming majority of Social Security payments, O’Carroll told a congressional panel.

“By any standard, the scope of these problems is considerable,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee. “Regardless of whether a payment occurs because of simple error or outright fraud, improper payments harm Social Security programs in the long term, jeopardizing benefits for those who may need them in the future. They also cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year.”

Of course, a high percentage of the payments were made properly, and with the size and scope of the federal government, you’ve got to expect some fraud, abuse and incorrect payments don’t you?

About 99.5 percent of all retirement and disability payments were accurate in 2009, O’Carroll [Patrick P. O’Carroll Jr., the inspector general for Social Security] said. In all, the agency made $660 billion in retirement, survivor and disability payments in 2009, including an estimated $2.5 billion in overpayments and $600 million in underpayments, O’Carroll said.

“While we are justifiably proud of our consistently high accuracy rate for (retirement, survivors and disability) payments, we recognize our responsibility to maintain and improve our performance,” Colvin [Carolyn W. Colvin, the agency’s deputy commissioner] said.

Symptom of the disease … Wasting $6.5 billion in taxpayer dollars is no big deal when your agency is so big and bloated that they are “successfully” handing out hundreds of billions and only screwing up on $6.5 billion.

The federal government should never have been tasked to handle such a program, and these failures prove that. If the people want these services, they should be provided by and managed exclusively by the states.

5 replies
  1. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    I don’t believe that shifting the “fraud” from the federal government to the state government will improve the solution (or are the states “fraud-less”). I would highlight the fact that there are people who defraud the rest of us. That has to do with personal responsibility, where is that?

  2. GdavidH
    GdavidH says:

    Sammy, you are absolutely correct about highlighting the fact of the individuals defrauding us. A lack of personal responsibility is inate in the people who would defraud the taxpayers, whether it be state taxpayers or federal taxpayers. The fact that the program is at the?federal level, making it that much larger a bureucracy, just makes it easier for these folks to cheat or the administrators too far removed to care. Bigger gov’t just means bigger problems in programs like this.

  3. cherwin
    cherwin says:

    What I want to know is do they get they money back?? And do this people who committed fraud go to jail?

  4. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    It is my understanding that once you are on SSI, you are on for life.? Is this true?? Is there a mechanism that says “your disability is cured, now you can get gainful unemployment”?
    If they know how much there is in over/underpayments, then they must know where it is.

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