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In Congress, calls mount for Social Security to address clawbacks

David Hilzenrath, Jodie Fleischer, Cox Media Group, KFF Health News on

Published in Political News

An investigation by KFF Health News and Cox Media Group gained further traction on Capitol Hill this week as additional members of Congress formally demanded answers from the Social Security Administration about billions of dollars it mistakenly paid to beneficiaries — and then ordered they repay.

Two members of a Senate panel that oversees Social Security sent a letter to the agency’s acting commissioner, Kilolo Kijakazi, urging her to do more to prevent overpayments and “limit harm to vulnerable beneficiaries” when trying to recover the money.

As KFF Health News and Cox Media Group television stations jointly reported in September, the Social Security Administration routinely sends notices to beneficiaries saying they received benefits to which they weren’t entitled — and demanding they pay the government back, often within 30 days.

In the 2022 federal fiscal year, for example, the agency sent overpayment notices to more than 1 million people, Kijakazi told Congress in mid-October.

Alleged overpayments can continue for years before the government notifies a recipient and seeks repayment. By then, the amount a beneficiary allegedly owes the government can reach tens of thousands of dollars or more. People living check to check likely would have spent the money.

To recoup money owed, the government can reduce or stop people’s monthly benefit checks.

 

“[W]e have been deeply concerned by stories from our constituents and recent reports of the extreme financial hardship placed upon beneficiaries who are asked to quickly repay in full or whose payments are halted, reduced, or reclaimed as the agency attempts to correct improper payments, many of which occurred due to agency error,” Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., wrote in a Nov. 28 letter to Kijakazi.

Citing the news organizations’ reporting, the senators asked what Kijakazi is doing to prevent harm to beneficiaries and what Congress can do.

Hassan and Cassidy are on the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., sent Kijakazi a letter on Nov. 17 calling the agency’s actions “unacceptable.”

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©2023 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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