More than 44,000 people have received approximately $140 million in extra, undeserved payments because of clerical and other errors by the Social Security Administration (SSA), according to estimates by the agency's inspector general.What great logic! We've been making mistakes for so long that we shouldn't correct them.
The SSA has continued making overpayments even after learning of errors because of an internal rule known as "administrative finality."
Under the policy, the SSA cannot reduce benefits for disability and other beneficiaries after four years except in cases of fraud, even if they learn that incorrect calculations are responsible for the overpayments.
"We believe that when SSA discovers errors in the payments to beneficiaries, the agency should correct them rather than continuing the errors in future benefit payments," Patrick P. O'Carroll Jr., inspector general for the SSA, wrote in a report sent to Congress and SSA officials last week.
Mr. O'Carroll's audit reviewed a sample population out of more than 77,000 beneficiaries in SSA's Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program whose files contained administrative finality documents as of June 2005.
Estimates show that overall costs of the program are expected to rise from $546.2 billion in 2006 to $949.6 billion by 2015.
Social Security officials are resisting Mr. O'Carroll's recommendation to change the administrative finality rules, citing unforeseen administrative costs and fears that any policy changes could shake public confidence in the agency.
"Correcting a record more than four years in the past could cause an undue hardship to beneficiaries, as well as create extensive public relations issues for the agency," SSA Chief of Staff Larry W. Dye said in a written response to Mr. O'Carroll.
Just perfect. Government at its very finest.