Social Security May Have Overpaid Disability Claims by $1.29 Billion

Bradley C Bower/AP file photo

Roughly 36,000 individuals may have received Social Security disability payments for which they did not qualify, at a cost to the government of $1.29 billion, the Government Accountability Office reported.

In an audit released Friday to Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., GAO said that the “potential cash benefit overpayments” made by the Social Security Administration as of January 2013 may have gone to recipients who were already working.

A similar report in 2010 found a higher number of possible improper payments, totaling $1.62 billion, or 1.27 percent of total payouts under the Disability Insurance program.

Under the program established in 1956, applicants who claim they are unable to work due to a long-term disability are required to go through a five-month waiting period during which they may not earn more than $1,000 a month. There is a subsequent nine-month trial work period.

More than 10 million disability insurance beneficiaries received cash payments totaling more than $128 billion in fiscal 2011, not counting Medicare payments, “and the program is poised to grow further as the baby boom generation ages,” the report said.

Auditors over a 15-month period compared SSA disability insurance data against the National Directory of New Hires and found discrepancies, though they could not pin down a precise number. “SSA uses its enforcement operation to generate alerts for potentially disqualifying earnings, but the agency's enforcement operation does not generate alerts for earnings that occur in all months of the waiting period, which allows potentially disqualifying work activity to remain undetected,” GAO wrote. “SSA officials stated that modifying its enforcement operation could be costly, but the agency has not assessed the costs of doing so.”

GAO recommended that SSA assess the costs and feasibility of establishing a mechanism to detect potentially disqualifying earnings during all months of the waiting period and implement the mechanism.

SSA concurred, but said, “GAO did not replicate the process with which” SSA makes determinations for eligibility, “and GAO made assumptions that may not be consistent with our policy.” Hence SSA is seeking additional GAO data before fully responding.

GAO stood by its methods.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.