July 13,2004

Grassley Calls on Social Security Administration to Protect Program Dollars for Disabled

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley called the results of a new government audit of overpaid Social Security benefits "astonishing," and urged the Social Security Administration to adopt a detailed plan of action to recover as much as $3 billion in overpayments.

Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said, "Any way you lookat it, the Social Security Administration is confronted with known and unknown overpaymentsinvolving billions of taxpayer dollars. These dollars should be available to benefit individualswho legitimately need disability payments." In a letter today, Grassley urged the Social Security Commissioner to act quickly on the recommendations made by the Inspector General.

The audit was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. It is titled "Disabled Title II Beneficiaries With Earnings on the Master Earnings File," A-01-03-13019.

The text of Grassley's letter to Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart follows here.

July 13, 2004

Jo Anne Barnhart
Social Security Administration
500 E. Street, SW
Washington, DC 20254

Dear Commissioner Barnhart:

Today, the Social Security Administration (SSA), Office of Inspector General (OIG),released an astonishing audit, which estimates that the SSA overpaid benefits to 171,620ineligible individuals totaling $3.15 billion. While the SSA successfully determined that 117,320of these individuals were ineligible for payments totaling $1.78 billion, the SSA failed to identifyan estimated 63,000 individuals who were overpaid $1.37 billion.

As chairman of the Committee on Finance, I do not know which finding is mosttroubling. Any way you look at it, the SSA is confronted with known and unknownoverpayments involving billions of taxpayer’s dollars – billions that should be available tobenefit individuals who legitimately need disability payments.

I am pleased that the SSA has agreed with the OIG’s recommendations, however, I amconcerned about their implementation. With billions of dollars at stake, I believe it is essential todevelop a detailed plan of action to address the OIG’s findings and recommendations.

Specifically, I want to be advised about specific goals and dates for implementing theserecommendations. In addition, please provide me additional details about the cost-benefitanalyses and resource allocation decisions used to identify and recover these overpayments.

Thank you for your attention to these important implementation issues and for yourresponse by September 30, 2004. Your staff may contact my Committee staff, Emilia DiSanto orDan Donovan, at (202) 224-4515 with any concerns or questions.


Charles E. Grassley