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Lawmakers Demand Accountability as Social Security Administration Faces Backlash Over Inadvertent Benefit Overpayments to Seniors

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are expressing serious concerns over the inadvertent overpayment of Social Security benefits to millions of older Americans by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This has led to subsequent demands for repayment, often reaching thousands of dollars.

According to a report by Conservative Brief on Sunday, December 17, 2023, lawmakers from Ohio, including Rep. Mike Carey, are seeking answers from Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, the acting commissioner of the SSA, regarding this issue. A report by Fox Business Network reveals that numerous House members within the Ohio delegation have sent a letter to Dr. Kijakazi, seeking clarification on the SSA’s actions in clawing back overpayments from beneficiaries.

Of particular concern is the fact that many affected individuals, the majority of whom are elderly and disabled individuals living on fixed incomes, have not committed any wrongdoing. These individuals now face the threat of having their benefits cut off or frozen until they repay the alleged debt.

Fox Business Network reported on Friday, that Rep. Mike Carey expressed his dismay, emphasizing that seniors and disabled Americans living on fixed incomes should not be treated like criminals by the federal government. He pointed out that the situation arises from bureaucratic mistakes made by the federal government rather than any fault of the recipients.

Carey shared a letter from a constituent dated December 2021, in which the SSA acknowledged a miscalculation of benefits. The constituent not only started receiving more money monthly but also received a retroactive payment covering the period from 2017. However, in August of the same year, the constituent received a letter from the SSA stating that the initial miscalculation was incorrect, and they now owed the SSA over $7,500 in overpaid benefits, with a mere 30 days to settle the debt.

Legislators argue that over one million Americans receive such notifications annually regarding Social Security funds distributed in error. During Congressional testimony in November, Acting Commissioner Kijakazi mentioned that 986,912 Americans received clawback letters in fiscal year 2023.

However, a CBS “60 Minutes” report, based on a Freedom of Information Act request to the SSA, revealed that Kijakazi had understated the problem, indicating that more than 2 million Americans annually are informed that their Social Security checks were too large, over twice the number mentioned in the congressional testimony.

Beneficiaries are often given a short window, just 30 days, to repay amounts that can reach tens of thousands of dollars. The affected individuals include retirees, disabled individuals, and those who rely on Social Security as their sole source of income.

Rep. Emilia Sykes, a leading Democrat who signed onto the letter, emphasized that older and disabled Americans who have followed the correct procedures when filing for Social Security benefits should not be penalized for errors made by the SSA. She stressed that seniors rely on these payments to cover their bills and put food on the table, making it imperative for the SSA to rectify these errors promptly.

In response to the lawmakers’ inquiries, SSA spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann provided a statement to Fox Business. Tiggemann acknowledged that the administration does not have an exact figure for how many of the 67 million Americans receiving Social Security are affected by overpayments. She explained that the overpayment systems were not designed to easily determine this information.

As part of a review directed by the Acting Commissioner, the SSA is looking into how best to inform the agency, the public, and Congress about this workload. Lawmakers, however, remain adamant about holding the SSA accountable for these errors, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that all seniors receive the correct payments they deserve and calling for transparency in addressing this critical issue affecting millions of vulnerable Americans.

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