Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Report details disability overpayments

Report details disability overpayments

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Social Security Administration's disability program loses billions of dollars through overpayments and payments to ineligible beneficiaries, the agency's Office of Inspector General found in a report issued this week.

The report, requested by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, estimated overpayments of $5.1 billion identified between October 2003 and November 2005. The SSA discovered $1.9 billion through normal reviews but failed to detect the other $3.2 billion.

There were also estimated annual benefits of $9.1 billion made to ineligible beneficiaries, of which $7 billion was stopped by normal processes but $2.1 billion was not detected.

Grassley noted that the $5.3 billion in improper payments that may or may not ever be recovered equaled 4.8% of total Social Security Disability Insurance benefits paid in fiscal 2004.

The SSA has "established procedures to detect and prevent the vast majority of improper payments," Grassley said. "However, as this report shows, they need to make additional efforts to fully address the problem."

The report was based on a sampling of 1,532 beneficiaries. Of these, 292 were overpaid, had payments stopped because they were no longer eligible, or both, totaling about $2.5 million.

One beneficiary with a psychiatric disorder began receiving benefits in 1986. She was overpaid more than $28,000 because she began working in 2001, after completing a nurse assistant program.

A beneficiary and his dependents received more than $47,000 in benefits to which they were not entitled between 2001 and 2004. The man had a history of polio but was working at a level that made him ineligible for benefits.

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