Social Security On Monthly 'Watch' Till Overpayment Issue Is Fixed

The Social Security Administration must meet with a Senate panel monthly until the agency's $23 billion overpayment issue is resolved.

U.S. Capitol building at night
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Senate Finance Committee is putting new pressure on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to rectify the agency's $23 billion overpayment issue. 

The move follows KFF Health News and Cox Media Group's investigative report on the agency's mistaken overpayments to beneficiaries that SSA is now trying to take back.

Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), has vowed to meet with the administration every month until the problem "is fixed." Until then, the committee "is going to watchdog Social Security's overpayment program," he said.

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Wyden announced the monthly meeting plan during a committee markup of the nomination of former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to head SSA. 

The Senate is expected to vote on O'Malley's nomination tonight (December 18).

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate, O'Malley vowed to prioritize the department’s "customer service crisis." 

Part of the issue lies in the SSA being an understaffed organization. “The truth is, today, the Social Security Administration is serving a 50 percent increase in beneficiary customers with the same levels of staffing they had in 1995,” he said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider his nomination.

In October, SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi testified during a House of Representatives Social Security Subcommittee hearing that overpayments can occur given the number of people served, frequent changes in their circumstances and the complexity of the SSA programs. She also said that many of SSA's systems — including benefit and program payment as well as notice technology — are old and have had to be retrofitted as its programs evolved.

Kijakazi told the lawmakers that the SSA is working on improvements including the simplification of waiver request forms to make it easier and less burdensome for people to use. The agency is also integrating and refining an electronic wage data system, known as the Payroll Information Exchange, which will allow SSA to quickly access wage and employment data from a payroll data provider for people who authorize it.

Kijakazi also reiterated that people can appeal an SSA request for repayment and request that the agency waive collection of the overpayment. There’s no time limit for filing a waiver, she said.

According to KFF’s newest report, overpayment notices have been sent to more than two million people per year, which informs them of the amount of money they owe – and typically that they have 30 days to pay it.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.