A bipartisan group of lawmakers is currently investigating the Social Security Administration’s erroneous overpayment of benefits to millions of older Americans. These individuals have been subsequently burdened with demands to repay substantial amounts, often totaling thousands of dollars. Fox Business Network recently reported that House members from Ohio have written a letter to Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, the acting commissioner of the SSA, seeking clarification on the agency’s actions to recover these overpayments from beneficiaries who have not committed any wrongdoing.
The majority of those affected are elderly and disabled individuals with fixed incomes, who now face the risk of having their benefits suspended or withheld until their alleged debts are settled. Representative Mike Carey, a lead author of the letter, expressed to Fox News that the SSA has been unjustly targeting beneficiaries for years, treating them as if they had committed fraud, despite the agency’s own mistakes.
“Seniors and disabled Americans living on fixed incomes are not criminals, and they don’t deserve to be treated like criminals by the federal government over a mistake — and I can’t stress this enough — that is not their fault, but rather the result of a bureaucratic mistake on the part of the federal government,” Carey said.
He then revealed a letter dated December 2021 in which the SSA announced the benefits had been “miscalculated.”
“That constituent not only started receiving more money monthly, but the Social Security Administration sent them a check to cover what was retroactively owed through 2017,” said Carey. “Then, in August of this year, that constituent received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying that the initial miscalculation of their benefits was wrong. This constituent was told they now owed the Social Security Administration more than $7,500 in overpaid benefits, and they had only 30 days to pay it off.”
Legislators argue that more than one million Americans are notified each year about the incorrect distribution of Social Security funds. In November, during her testimony before Congress, SSA Acting Commissioner Kijakazi stated that clawback letters were sent to 986,912 Americans in fiscal year 2023.
Fox Business added:
“However, a CBS “60 Minutes” report based on a Freedom of Information Act request to the SSA found that Kijakazi understated the problem. The report said more than 2 million Americans annually are informed their Social Security checks were too big — more than two times the number Kijakazi told Congress. Beneficiaries have found out they owe the government tens of thousands of dollars, CBS reported, and are given a short window, often just 30 days, to pay it all back.
Those impacted include the retired, disabled and people who rely on Social Security as their sole source of income.”
“Older and disabled Americans who have done everything correctly when filing for Social Security benefits but received overpayments through no fault of their own should not be penalized for erroneous mistakes made by the Social Security Administration,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Ohio.
“Our seniors rely on these payments to pay their bills and put food on the table — they can’t afford for the SSA to be making life-altering errors. This letter seeks to hold the SSA accountable and ensure all seniors receive the correct payments they deserve,” she said.
According to SSA spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann’s statement to Fox Business, the exact number of Social Security recipients affected by overpayments among the 67 million Americans is not available.
“Our overpayment systems were not designed to easily determine this information. As part of the review directed by the Acting Commissioner, we are looking at how best to inform the Agency, the public, and Congress about this workload,” Tiggemann said.