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Government wrongfully gave disability benefits to 36,000 people

In a move that has caused Senator Tom Coburn, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, to question whether the Social Security Administration is doing enough to monitor its disability benefits payments, the federal Government Accountability Office estimates that the Administration had wrongfully paid 36,000 people disability benefits during the two-year period between December 2010 and January 2013. While Democrats are quick to point out that erroneous payments are not enough to reduce funding for the program, wrongful payments do negatively affect people in Atlanta filing Social Security disability insurance benefits claims.

Some people may wonder how people without disabilities getting disability benefits really hurt those in need of benefits, but the answer is simple: wrongful payments take away from those that truly need them. Since anyone trying to get benefits must make less than $1,000 per month for five months, those people who are truly unable to work because of a disability are often in desperate need of benefits.

This blog has talked extensively about backlogs and the wait to appeal a disability benefit decision, so if someone who is disabled is denied benefits because someone else accidentally received them without being disabled, it can be devastating. In total, the estimated cost of these wrongful payments is $1.3 billion. The individuals who received the benefits appear to be people who were not only not disabled, but actually working.

It is unknown what changes will come about from this report, but it is clear that the Social Security Administration needs to do a better job at policing who receives its benefits.

Source: The Washington Post, "Auditors: Social Security may have overpaid disability claims by $1.3 billion," Josh Hicks, Sept. 17, 2013

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