An independent agency called watchdog published a report of its two-year-long probe that found that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has failed to properly notify some low income and disabled Americans before charging them excessive amounts of money in fines. These outrageous social security penalties on Americans have reached numbers as high as $100,000 in some cases. The report found the government had not been properly notifying fine recipients through written notices.

The Findings Of The Probe

The investigations took a look into an anti-fraud program at the Social Security Administration, where procedural breaches were starting to take place in 2018. It yielded information that found that in some cases the government was not sending out the required written notices..

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This program is run by the inspector general’s office, which investigators found had sent notification letters in other cases but never properly served people for fines.

Elderly And Disabled Affected By This

The Washington Post put forth its own investigation in 2022, and found that many of the people being accused of fraud were the disabled and elderly.

Source: Unsplash/Nathan Anderson

The Washington Post said, “…escalating penalties – which started before Inspector General Gail Ennis took office in 2019 as a Trump administration appointee and continued under her tenure – affected more than 100 disabled and elderly people receiving disability benefits who were accused of fraud.”

Fines Increased

The report from the Washington Post unveiled that during a seven month period in 2019 fines exceeded the combined fines from the entire year of 2017.

Source: Unsplash/ NFT gallery

“Over a seven-month period that ended in mid-2019, 83 people were charged a total of $11.5 million, documents obtained by The Post showed – a jump from less than $700,000 for all of 2017.”

What Is The Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration is a federal government agency that’s sole responsibility is to oversee and administer payments for Social Security.

Source: CNBC

There is also a program that distributes retirement income to American workers with limited means called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for SSI, the worker needs to be 65 years or older or meet other requirements like having a disability.

Response From The Justice Department

The Justice Department inspector, General Michael Horowitz wrote that it made clear issues about the legality of the penalties.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Horowitz stated that the report made “significant legal questions about the validity of penalties” for lower-income people and those “who are potentially subject to having their future Social Security and disability benefits withheld.”

SSA Issues Billions Of Overpayments

KFF Health News and Cox Media Group conducted an investigation that found that the agency had been issuing billions of dollars in overpayments due to mismanagement.

Source: Adobe Stock

The SSA would then demand that these overpayments be paid back at a 100% return rate, which most people found difficult to afford.

Making Adjustments To Repayment Plans

Another change that the SSA will be putting into action is changing repayment plans. People who were issued overpayments are being allotted an extra two years to pay back the amount owed.

Source: socialsecurityoffices

This would give an extension from the current 36 months to approximately 60 months.

Shift In Policy

In the aftermath of the reports findings, the SSA made an announcement that it will be making changes to how it handles fines and fraud that are a result of overpayments to social security recipients.

Source: Shutterstock

The agency announced several steps that will be taken, one of which will be to limit the percentage they collect back to 10% of the overpaid monthly benefit amount.They would also be extending repayment plans for social security recipients who are overpaid.

Relaxing Fault Restrictions

Before, people who were overpaid were required to prove to the SSA that the overpayments received were not a result of something they personally did. With the changes being made the SSA will remove this restriction, making it easier for recipients of excessive payments to work through the process.

Source: Pexels

Opponents of the SSA have criticized the policy of blaming the individual for overpayment mistakes for a long time.

Waivers Of Repayment

The SSA has also stated that they will make it easier for recipients to file waivers for repayment. Those affected can file waivers if they feel as though they can’t afford the amount they are being required to pay back.

Source: Unsplash/Andrew Rivera

They are also entitled to file a waiver if they feel as though the overpayments were not their fault.

Restrictions On The Time Limit

In an interview conducted by KFF Health News on March 20th, the Social Security Commissioner suggested another idea for reform that could be considered. If this reform were to be granted it would put forth a time limit on the SSA trying to obtain overpayments from the recipients of overpayment.

Source: Shutterstock

SSA documents revealed by KFF Health News and Cox Media Group show that over two million Americans are served with repayment demands every single year.