Recently, it was announced by the Government Accountability Office that the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program overpaid $11 billion to beneficiaries who earned too much money to qualify for full benefits from 2005-14.
This discovery led to some outrage among conservative politicians and some media outlets. However, we recently read a great column in the Washington Post by David Dayen, who specializes in writing about domestic policy, downplaying the amount of money spent on overpayments.
As Dayen notes, $11 billion is a lot of money. However, the Social Security Administration also reported that during this time it spent $1.169 trillion, meaning the $11 billion in overpayments is less than 1 percent of total expenditures.
“Furthermore, all $11 billion wasn’t lost to the government. [The] SSA can claw back overpayments from disability beneficiaries in subsequent years. In fact, GAO reveals [in] its report that [the] SSA collected $7.8 billion in outstanding debt in the ten-year time frame,” Dayen reported.
This means that only $1.14 billion was written off, or about .12 percent of total expenditures during the frame.
“[If] I told you the program overpaid by $11 billion – while neglecting to mention how they clawed most of it back – you might dust off your pitchfork and join your local mob’s march to the nearest SSA satellite office,” Dayen wrote.
Do Not Let Negative News Dissuade Your From Applying for SSDI Benefits
When you read stories about SSDI overpayments, make sure you pay attention to the news source. Many conservative media outlets like to drum up support for SSDI reform and/or reducing the size of the government by painting the program as wasteful—they do this by indicating financial misuse without getting into detail.
We are glad to see that some media outlets are posting columns supporting SSDI funding.
It is very had to be approved for SSDI benefits and overpayments are not as common as you may be led to believe. Most people who apply for benefits are denied initially. For more information about the SSDI process, you can visit our Social Security FAQ page.