The Social Security Administration has been overpaying recipients by billions of dollars and is now demanding that money back. A report by the agency's inspector general found that the government paid out $26.3 billion in excess benefits during the 2022 fiscal year. Of that, the agency has been able to reclaim just $4.7 billion.
According to a report by Kaiser Health News, many people who rely on Social Security are shocked to learn they owe the government money. In one case, a woman who receives $1,065 in monthly Social Security disability benefits was told she owed the government more than $60,000. She was given just 30 days to repay the money.
"We have an overpayment crisis on our hands," Rebecca Vallas, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank, told Kaiser Health News. "Overpayments push already struggling beneficiaries even deeper into poverty and hardship, which is directly counterproductive to the goals" of safety-net programs.
There are many reasons for the overpayments, including hard-to-understand rules and a lack of adequate staff at the SSA to handle the workload, which is mainly done manually.
If recipients do not pay back the overpayments, the SSA can reduce or stop their monthly benefit payments and garnish their wages or federal tax refunds.