The Social Security Administration has provided people with income security for over 80 years.
The agency takes seriously its responsibilities to ensure eligible individuals receive the benefits to which they are entitled and to safeguard the integrity of benefit programs to better serve its customers. Agency employees work hard to pay the right person the right amount at the right time, and payment accuracy rates remain high.
Social Security pays $1.4 trillion in benefits to more than 71 million people each year. While payment accuracy rates are high, overpayments do happen given the number of people the agency serves, the number of changes in their circumstances, and the complexity of the programs.
Only around 0.5 percent of Social Security payments are overpayments.
Only around 0.5 percent of Social Security payments are overpayments. For the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, overpayments also represent a small percentage of payments—about 8 percent—but are higher due to the complexity in administering statutory income and resource limits and asset evaluations.
“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,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “I have designated a senior official to work out of the Office of the Commissioner to lead the team and report directly to me.”
There is misinformation in the media claiming that the Social Security Administration is attempting to collect $21 billion. This figure was derived from the total amount of overpayments that have occurred over the history of the programs. Each person’s situation is unique, and the agency handles overpayments on a case-by-case basis. In particular, if a person doesn’t agree that they’ve been overpaid, or believes the amount is incorrect, they can appeal. If they believe they shouldn’t have to pay the money back, they can request that the agency waive collection of the overpayment. There’s no time limit for filing a waiver.
The agency is continually improving how it serves the millions of people who depend on its programs, including by preventing overpayments and making it easier to navigate the recovery and waiver processes.
For instance, the agency just released its streamlined waiver request form that is easier to understand and less burdensome for people to request a debt recovery waiver. It is also developing a new electronic payroll data exchange program that will automatically use wage information to adjust payment amounts when appropriate to prevent overpayments. Additionally, the agency intends to publish a proposed rule to streamline processes and reduce burden so eligible individuals can more easily seek debt relief.
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.
Social Security is committed to working with people if they seek to appeal or to explore potential repayment options and waivers when allowed by law.
For more information about the overpayment process, please see Overpayments Fact Sheet.
Photo credit: Inset Kilolo Kijakazi.