Your Tax Dollars...Down The Drain: $1.3 billion In Overpayments to Social Security Disability Insurance Recipients

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today released the following statement in a monthly series highlighting Washington’s wasteful spending during a time of record debt and deficits:

In just the latest example of wasteful spending, a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered $1.3 billion in overpayments to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients as of last January.

“As we approach the debate over funding the government, President Obama and Congressional Democrats continue to propose tax increases to close the budget deficit rather than paring back unnecessary spending,” said Portman.  “Washington has no right to demand new taxes from families and workers while continuing to lose billions of dollars in government waste.”

SSDI is intended to assist those who are too disabled to earn a significant income from work.  Much of the overpayments stem from paying SSDI benefits to those who had worked and earned significant income during their mandatory five-month application waiting period – earnings levels that indicate they may not be too disabled to fully participate in the workforce.  Additional overpayments stemmed from continued payments to SSDI participants who had returned to work and begun earning incomes above the eligibility threshold.

GAO also found that hundreds of millions of dollars in additional overpayments may have occurred for additional reasons not fully considered in their analysis.

These overpayments have contributed to the rapid deterioration of Social Security Disability trust fund.  Since 2007, program spending has soared from $100 billion to $144 billion, replacing its surpluses with a $33 billion annual deficit.  Consequently, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates that the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund will be bankrupt by 2017.

Yet SSDI is just one brick in the overpayment wall.  The White House estimates that federal program overpayments cost approximately $100 billion per year – which is more than the entire Department of Education budget.