The House Social Security Subcommittee has scheduled a Hearing for January 24th, 2012 on how to minimize "improper payments and protect taxpayers’ dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse."
While the Social Security Subcommittee must provide oversight, we wonder at times - just how accurate is the focus of such hearings?
In announcing the hearing, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) said, “Waste, fraud, and abuse in the disability insurance program cheat honest, hardworking American taxpayers. As we work to secure the future of this program, we need to protect the American taxpayer from con artists who are stealing from the system by making sure benefits are paid only to those who deserve them.”
SSA notes that between fiscal years 2006 – 2010 the agency paid approximately $530.5 billion to disability insurance program beneficiaries.
$5.5 billion (1.0%) was estimated to have been overpaid.
$2.3 billion (0.4%) was estimated to have been underpaid.
Rarely mentioned in these planned hearings, is the amount of money wage earners who become disabled are underpaid. While less than half the amount of overpaid funds; $2.3 billion is not chump change, especially if you are disabled and did not receive an accurate payment. If Representative Johnson is so interested in "protecting the American taxpayer from con artists who are stealing from the system by making sure benefits are paid only to those who deserve them,” perhaps his hearing should also focus (or at least mention) those deserving disabled taxpayers who were underpaid over 2 billion in the last 4 years.
We doubt any real discussion of underpayment will occur.Focusing on one aspect of the problem while ignoring the other seems misguided at best. Taxpayers who become disabled want accurate oversight just as much as those who are not disabled. The buzzwords of improper overpayments will be front and center at the hearing and accountability is of course necessary. However real oversight involves perspective and focus.And increasing reviews of improper payments involves skilled staff. If Congress wants to save money by targeting aspects of the Disability program, cutting SSA's budget as proposed, will not increase the staffing needed for oversight of improper payments or lack thereof.