Social Security demands back billions in overpayments; Policies under review after I-TEAM reports

DAYTON — The Social Security Administration is taking action in the wake of News Center 7′s reporting on the federal agency.

For three weeks, New Center 7′s I-Team has been reporting on billions in overpayments the agency is now trying to claw back from vulnerable Americans.

The Social Security Agency (SSA) is now taking a fresh look at its policies and procedures after the I-Team’s John Bedell shined a light on the fact so many American families are getting stuck with surprise letters from the federal government demanding they pay bills they can’t afford.

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“It just feels like we’ve been failed,” Kristin Cooper SSA overpayment recipient said.

Families across the country and in the Miami Valley have told the I-Team how Social Security is demanding thousands of dollars in overpayments.

“I think that is shameful,” Angela Worley of Dayton said.

“Despite our high accuracy rates, I am putting together a team to review our overpayment policies and procedures to further improve how we serve our customers. I have designated a senior official to work out of the office of the commissioner to lead the team and report directly to me,” a statement from Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of the SSA said

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A series of I-Team investigations over the last three weeks found that SSA audits show that Americans repay between $4 and $5 billion dollars in overpayments each year.

The grand total of overpayments the agency still has not recovered is more than $21 billion.

Even when it’s the SSA’s own mistake, it still demands people pay the money back.

Miami Valley Congressman Mike Carey sits on the House subcommittee on social security.

During an interview with the I-Team last week, Carey said that News Center 7′s reporting has uncovered a huge problem and is demanding answers from the government agency so many elderly and disabled Ohioans depend on to survive.

“I think we need to have a hearing. we need to come to grips with where we are right now, find out what the problems are, and fix the problems,” Carey said

The AARP and a union leader for SSA employees echoed that sentiment.

The agency has, thus far, refused to disclose how many Americans have been impacted by these overpayments.

The Social Security Administration has not offered any specifics on what the review will entail or a timeline for when it will be completed.

SSA has declined our prior requests for an interview with the acting commissioner and has not responded to a new request to discuss her ordering of this review.

In a news release announcing the review, the agency said when overpayments do happen, the agency is required by law to adjust benefits or recover debts. The law allows Social Security to waive recovery in some cases, which must be balanced with the agency’s stewardship responsibility to safeguard the integrity of benefit programs and the trust funds.

We will continue following this story and update as new details are released.

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