Social Security errors leading to financial ruin?
Social Security is meant to be a safety net for the disabled and retired. It delivers about $1.4 trillion in benefits to millions each year.
However, the federal agency that runs it has been aggressively trying to claw back billions of dollars from those it now says it overpaid.
An investigation by KFF Health News and Cox Media Group revealed that the Social Security Administration had demanded repayments from more than 2 million people a year. Beneficiaries were asked to repay amounts which sometimes reached tens of thousands of dollars.
When Woods, who has lupus and congestive heart failure, couldn't repay that amount, she was told her monthly checks of $2,048 would be withheld until it was enough to cover her debt.
KFF and CMG say their reporting on the matter has triggered a congressional hearing, additional Senate oversight of the agency, an apology from the head of the SSA to Congress about understating overpayments, and an ongoing internal policy review.
In November, two senators on the Senate subcommittee that oversees Social Security wrote a letter urging the SSA "to take additional action to reduce overpayments and prevent undue harm on the most vulnerable Social Security recipients when recovering overpayments."
In December, the Senate Finance Committee said it's "going to watchdog Social Security’s overpayment program, and will meet with Social Security every month until it is fixed." Chairman Ron Wyden wrote, "We were told in the past that Social Security was fixing the problem. That clearly has not been the case."
Under its new head Martin O'Malley the SSA has proposed using information from payroll data providers to reduce improper payments.