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The Transformation of Social Security right into a Debt Collection Agency


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Kree Flowers had lately gotten married and determined to log into her account on the Social Security Administration’s web site in February to test on the standing of her retirement advantages. She was shocked to see a giant crimson quantity on the high of the web page. According to the company, she had been overpaid by $17,121.21.“At that point, my mind immediately goes to fraud,” she stated. “Someone collected benefits under my name — that’s what I was thinking.” The subsequent morning, when Ms. Flowers known as the company, a consultant advised her that she had been overpaid for advantages between 1995 and 2003 and was anticipated to repay the steadiness. This didn’t make sense to her: She was 10 years outdated when the disputed funds started. “My first instinct was to laugh and correct him,” she stated.

But Ms. Flowers stated the consultant had appeared unfazed by her age and directed her to fill out a type to dispute the costs. A number of days later, her sister realized that she had been overpaid by the identical quantity.

Every 12 months for the previous 4 years, the S.S.A. has despatched out between $6 billion and $10 billion in overpayments for varied profit packages, in response to federal disclosures. The company has an uncollected overpayment steadiness of $23 billion as of October. This is a small fraction of the greater than $1.4 trillion that the company pays to about 71 million folks annually. A latest investigative report from KFF Health News and Cox Media discovered that whereas overpayments generally outcome from errors made by the company or beneficiaries, “much of the fault lies within the system.”

Ms. Flowers, 38, known as the company dozens of occasions on the lookout for solutions. “No one could ever really tell us what happened,” she stated. Earlier notices in regards to the overpayment have been despatched to an outdated tackle, which was why Ms. Flowers needed to uncover it on her personal. She suspects the difficulty stems from incapacity funds the company made to her estranged father. (Social Security representatives advised her that they weren’t allowed to reveal her father’s personal info.)
In the Nineties, when her mother and father have been separated and dwelling in several states however nonetheless married, Ms. Flowers’s father utilized for and obtained funds by the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which might cowl recipients’ youngsters. Her mom recalled receiving month-to-month funds of $100 or $120 for a 12 months or so, however nowhere close to $34,000 over eight years.


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