The Social Security Administration (SSA) is attempting to recover $20 billion in overpayments of members of Congress who are demanding answers following revelations.
The SSA managed to recover $4.7 billion of these overpayments during the 2022 fiscal year, but a substantial $21.6 billion remains outstanding, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general.
Social Security benefits are crucial for retirees, disabled individuals, and the survivors of deceased workers, often constituting a significant portion of their income.
Some recipients have expressed their concerns after receiving letters from the SSA requesting repayment of tens of thousands of dollars with little notice.
One individual even reported becoming homeless after being asked to repay $67,000.
Several lawmakers are now pushing for congressional hearings on the issue and urging the SSA to cease its efforts to reclaim these overpayments.
Rep. Mike Carey, an Ohio Republican on the House Subcommittee on Social Security, called for a hearing and stated, “Seniors and disabled Americans on a fixed income shouldn’t be penalized for bureaucratic mistakes on the part of the Social Security Administration.”
Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican on the Committee on Aging, questioned how the agency allowed overpayments to reach over $20 billion, asking if anyone would be held accountable at the federal level for these errors.
Savings Penalty Elimination Act Proposed in Response to SSA Overpayments
In September, New York Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro contacted the acting commissioner of the SSA, requesting an immediate halt to the overpayment recoveries and an update to the system to prevent future issues.
He emphasized that the SSA should focus on fixing its systems rather than aggressively pursuing seniors for repayment.
In response, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation known as the Savings Penalty Elimination Act.
This legislation aims to raise asset caps to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples while indexing them to inflation in the future.
Established in 1984, the current caps are $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples.
The SSA has previously stated that “less than 0.5 percent of Social Security payments are overpayments” and that they are legally required to adjust benefits or recover debts in cases of overpayment.
They handle overpayments on a case-by-case basis, citing various reasons for overpayments, such as beneficiaries failing to report work or other changes affecting their benefits.
Despite staffing losses and resource constraints, the agency also stressed its commitment to improving program stewardship and reducing improper payments.