Auditors Say Social Security Paid $1.3 Billion to Faulty Claims

Nobody enjoys applying for social security benefits. You have to gather a lot of information and make sure you’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t.” Then you have to wait to hear back to see if you’ve been accepted. Chances are, your first application will be rejected, and you’ll have to appeal. Even if you are eventually accepted, there’s a five-month waiting period for disability benefits

You like to think all those checks and balances are worth the headaches — that the Social Security Administration is only approving individuals who really can’t work and need the benefits.

Apparently, that hasn’t been the case the last few years.

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36,000 faulty claims

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report stating that the Social Security Administration paid fraudulent SSDI claims to 36,000 individuals who were able to work, despite claims to the contrary.

The claims were paid between December, 2010, through January, 2013.

Those claims add up to $1.3 billion (with a B) in underserved social security payouts.

The GAO checked federal wage databases against the details in the SSDI applications. Most of the cases where fraudulent money was issued to people who started working during the five-month waiting period. That waiting period is designed to make sure applicants have long-term disabilities.

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A drop in the bucket?

It’s hard to imagine $1.3 billion could be considered insignificant in any context. In this case, that amount represents less than 1 percent of people receiving benefits and less than 1 percent of the total amount the Social Security Administration paid out during that time frame.

According to the AP:

“More than 8.2 million disabled workers received disability payments in December 2010, a figure that has grown to nearly 9 million. Last year, the agency paid out $137 billion in disability payments.”

But the GAO says the incorrect payouts represent issues with the agency’s internal controls.

The Social Security Administration has promised to investigate the claims and take back any underserved benefits. Officials also noted the GAO analysis didn’t look at whether attempts to work were turned down or if there were other special circumstances.

In the report, the GAO recommends:

“To improve SSA’s ability to detect and prevent potential DI cash benefit overpayments due to work activity during the 5-month waiting period, the Commissioner of Social Security should assess the costs and feasibility of establishing a mechanism to detect potentially disqualifying earnings during all months of the waiting period, including those months of earnings that the agency’s enforcement operation does not currently detect and implement this mechanism, to the extent that an analysis determines it is cost-effective and feasible.”

If you, or someone you love, is dealing with an injury or illness that doctors expect to limit your ability to work for at least one year, Social Security Disability benefits may be an invaluable resource to manage looming financial difficulties. Contact the disability lawyers at Young, Marr & Associates today for a FREE consultation about your situation. The process is risk free — if we don’t win benefits, you won’t owe us for our services.

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