I-TEAM: Members of Congress hold hearing on improper Social Security payments

WASHINGTON D.C. — A hearing was held in Congress on Social Security overpayments Wednesday after lawmakers learned about billions of dollars the agency is trying to take back from people who count on that money.

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News Center 7′s Samantha Manning was at the hearing Wednesday while lawmakers questioned the acting head of Social Security.

There is a demand for accountability from the Social Security Administration (SSA) over billions of dollars in overpayments.

“Who within the administration is being held accountable for the mistakes the administration is making?” asked Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL).

“We are holding ourselves accountable,” said Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, SSA Acting Commissioner.

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Members of Congress held the hearing on Wednesday to figure out why improper payments are happening in the first place.

The agency blames a lack of funding.

“Our staffing shortages absolutely contribute to overpayments,” said Dr. Kijakazi.

For more than a year, News Center 7′s I-Team has been asking how many Americans have been impacted by social security overpayments.

For the first time Wednesday, we learned it’s millions. It was nearly a million this year and more than a million last year.

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“It’s a lot of our fellow Americans, and it’s a lot of our money,” said Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA).

“That’s too many,” said Congressman John Larson (D-CT). “You want to make sure that we’re taking a look at that to make it more efficient.”

This hearing came after our investigations, done in collaboration with our Cox Media Group sister stations and KFF Health News. We’ve heard from beneficiaries around the country impacted by overpayments, including dozens here in the Miami Valley. Many of them are poor, elderly, and disabled and have gotten letters asking them to pay the money back, sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

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On Wednesday, the head of the SSA pointed out the agency is required by law to try to get the money back if a beneficiary has been overpaid.

She argued the rate of overpayments is low.

“About one-half of one percent of Social Security and eight percent of supplement income SSA,” said Dr. Kijakazi.

She explained the steps the agency is now taking to address the issue.

“I’ve put in place a review to look at even more ways we can improve.”

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Manning says the Social Security Administration says that review includes looking into what’s causing improper payments and how to make notices clearer for beneficiaries.