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A matter of perspective


Social Security is a large program. Within Social Security, the disability program comprises a significant part of the system but is hardly the largest component. With immense programs like these, the effects of small percentages can become quite large. Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits to about 11 million disabled American workers, and the Social Security Administration (SSA)  pays out about $135 billion in benefits checks.

This pales against the other $735 billion SSA pays in other benefits, primarily as part of the retirement program. But the system is far from perfect. There are issues involving genuinely disabled workers struggling to obtain benefits because of the complexity of the system and of their own medical conditions. They often find it necessary to obtain legal assistance to obtain their benefits.


SSD also faces issues of making overpayments to some within the program. In most cases, there is no grand conspiracy. The overpayment is made to someone who has seen an improvement in their health and has been able to return to work, and now earn more than the threshold amount that ends SSD benefits.

They may have notified SSA, but because of the size of the system, the notice was inaccurately entered or some other mistake in processing was made. While the yearly overpayment was about $1.6 billion, that sum is still only about 0.2 percent of SSA's total payments processed.

A congressional representative has offered a bill that would attempt to correct this. Were it only that easy. With SSD, there are no easy solutions, as the size of the system makes for frequent errors and great difficulty in remedying those errors.

The oversight required to "fix" the $1.6 billion in overpayments could demand sufficient personnel and computers or software, that it could easily cost more than $1.6 billion to solve the problem.

And let us hope while fixing this problem, they do not create others that pose additional hurdles for disabled workers attempting to obtain SSD benefits.


Source:, "New bill targets federal overpayments," Jim Miller, December 28, 2015

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