Social Security overpaid nearly half the people receiving disability benefits over the past decade, according to a government watchdog, raising questions about the management of the cash-strapped program.
In all, Social Security overpaid beneficiaries by nearly $17 billion, according to a 10-year study by the agency’s inspector general.
Many payments went to people who earned too much money to qualify for benefits, or to those no longer disabled. Payments also went to people who had died or were in prison.
Social Security was able to recoup about $8.1 billion, but it often took years to get the money back, the study said.
With the disability program going broke next year, it is especially troubling that Social Security is failing to protect precious taxpayer dollars.
“Every dollar that goes to overpayments doesn’t help someone in need,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “Given the present financial situation of the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund, the program cannot sustain billions of dollars lost to waste.”
The trust fund that supports Social Security’s disability program is projected to run out of money late next year, triggering automatic benefit cuts, unless Congress acts. The looming deadline has lawmakers feuding over a solution that may have to come in the heat of a presidential election.
The program’s financial problems go beyond the issue of overpayments — Social Security disability has paid out more in benefits than it has collected in payroll taxes every year for the past decade.