Washington News Bureau

Lawmaker ramps up SSA oversight in effort to fix Social Security overpayments

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senator is implementing new oversight steps to hold the Social Security Administration accountable following our ongoing reporting on billions of dollars in overpayments and efforts by the government to claw the money back from beneficiaries.

Channel 2 Action News’ Washington Bureau spoke with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which acts as a watchdog of SSA.

“We’re going to have a new approach in terms of oversight,” Wyden said. “We’re going to get the reports every 30 days. We’re looking at some of the information with respect to the economy that should have been dealt with already to get the accuracy of these claims improved.”

Channel 2 Action News told you how the investigative teams at our Cox Media Group stations partnered with KFF Health News and exposed the multi-billion-dollar problem.

We brought you the stories of beneficiaries who have been told they need to pay back tens of thousands of dollars because of the government’s mistake.


“Your reporting has just been invaluable in terms of kind of opening up a lot of visibility and awareness to something that needs to be fixed,” Wyden said. “They told us the problem had been fixed. What you all found in your reporting is that the problem hadn’t been fixed and so now we have an opportunity to get the kind of changes that we need to really protect these very vulnerable people.”

In October, the Acting Head of SSA told Congress that 1 million people have been impacted by overpayments. But our reporting revealed the real number is actually double that.

In response, a spokesperson for SSA told us it cannot confirm the accuracy of the numbers it provided to Congress.

“Our overpayment systems were not designed to easily determine this information. Staff provided unverified numbers, which were gathered quickly to help inform the overpayment landscape,” said the SSA.

“When you have Social Security officials not telling the truth, and that’s how I would characterize that report on the number of people for whom there was actually a problem, it really damages this incredibly important program’s credibility,” Wyden said.

There has been a bipartisan push in the Senate to hold the agency responsible.

“There has to be accountability in Social Security,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-FL.