Washington News Bureau

‘We have to get this right!’ Lawmakers demand action in Congressional hearing over SSA overpayments

WASHINGTON — A Channel 2 Action News investigation into social security overpayments is now getting action on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers held a Congressional hearing Wednesday afternoon where they questioned the head of the Social Security Administration about why billions of dollars in overpayments were made to beneficiaries.

For the first time, we’ve learned about 1 million people a year are impacted. Many of those people were told to pay the money back -- sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.

Channel 2 Washington bureau reporter Samantha Manning was inside the hearing where the head of the Social Security Administration said the problem largely comes down to a lack of funding.

Acting SSA Commissioner Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi said that has led to staff shortages and called on Congress to invest more money into the agency to help avoid problems like overpayments.

It’s the first time SSA has given specifics about the extent of the problem.

“Our overpayment rates are low. About one-half of one percent of Social Security and about 8% of supplemental income SSA,” Kijakazi said.


SSA said a review got underway last week that is looking into factors contributing to improper payments and how to make notices clearer for beneficiaries.

The hearing comes after a joint investigation between Channel 2 Action News, the investigative teams from our sister stations across seven states, and KFF Health News where we heard from beneficiaries around the country impacted by overpayments.

Many of them are poor, elderly and disabled and have gotten letters asking them to pay the money back- sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Channel 2 Action News first reported on the problem three years ago when Ginger Snowden got a bill from Social Security that dated back 40 years.

“I just kept saying over and over again, you know, that I was 14 years old,” Snowden said.

That story got outrage Wednesday from members of both parties.

“Morality demands that this committee and the Congress act, especially in these times,” said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.

“Whether we’re talking about an overpayment or we’re talking about an underpayment, we have to get this right,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Georgia.

In order to get it right, SSA said more funding is critical.

“Our staffing shortages absolutely contribute to overpayments,” Kijakazi said.

“Who within the administration is being held accountable for the mistakes the administration is making?” Rep. Greg Steube asked Kijakazi.

“We are holding ourselves accountable,” Kijakazi said.

Rep. Steube specifically referenced Channel 2 Action News and KFF Health News’ reporting on the overpayment issue.

The overpayment issue has also been discussed in Senate hearings.


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