US taxpayers deserve better than this
Seventeen billion dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term fiscal challenges facing the Social Security program. Still, it is serious money, and Congress should demand answers about how the system managed to pay it out improperly.
More to the point, lawmakers should insist on convincing answers to their questions about what Social Security officials are doing to prevent similar waste in the future.
Sadly enough, it comes as no surprise that the Social Security Administration’s inspector general found nearly $17 billion in disability benefits was paid out improperly during the past decade.
What is startling, however, is the fact that nearly half the people receiving disability benefits got at least some money for which they were not eligible.
Various reasons were cited. They included payments to dead people, those who earned too much to qualify for the program and others who received checks even after they were no longer disabled.
Social Security officials were able to recover about half the money, the inspector general noted.
Few businesses could keep their doors open if they made major errors involving half their customers. But Social Security is the government, and virtually no one is ever held accountable for mistakes there.
That must change. Better management of money is absolutely critical.