SOCIAL SECURITY SITTING ON OVERPAYMENTS

Social Security sits on billions of dollars of uncollected overpayments. Its offices compete to see which office can pay retirement and disability claims faster than the other. Meanwhile disabled people go back to work without having their benefits monitored. Those who are overpaid ask to have collection waived. Since nobody has time to review and deny the waiver, collection is deferred indefinitely. See specific references below.

Social Security has two logistics problems that overlap. Over 50% of its work force is poised to retire with no plan for replacements, while Congress is requiring it to encourage Disability beneficiaries to go back to work. Who keeps track of people’s work incentives, so their benefits are stopped timely without overpayments?

Check the Internet page http://www.ssa.gov/2010. Social Security expects 28000 employees to retire and another 10000 to leave by 2010. This is over 50% of its workforce, and most will not wait until 2010.

Social Security does not hire employees in advance of vacancies and has hired hardly anybody since the 1970s. In 1974 Social Security hired Claims Representatives for the new Supplemental Security Income program. In 1976 it hired more Claims Representatives before Jimmy Carter took office and imposed a federal hiring freeze.

Social Security employees can retire at age 55. The average age of Social Security employees is 47, but many are 50 or older. In two offices that I know of, all employees but two and four respectively can retire within the next three years. In those two offices combined, only one employee has stayed beyond the age of 55

Social Security Claims Representatives get $58000 a year to open mail, file mail, associate mail, write names on folders, and answer the phone while the stuff they are paid to do just keeps piling up. Medical reviews, reviews of disabled people who returned to work, and overpayment collection actions are piled in boxes on top of the file cabinets, because Social Security is rushing Claims Representatives to pay new claims and reinstatements without clerks.

Social Security makes poor personnel choices with its budget. There are layers of management in local offices and layers of offices.

Social Security renamed Operations Supervisors as Management Support Specialists, so it could say that supervisory ranks dropped. The Management Support Specialist manages work loads rather than people but wears the stripes of the Manager.

Vision 2010 purports to describe Social Security in 2010. Look at any Social Security Office and picture 60% of the staff gone, that is Social Security in 2010. Most were hired before Jimmy Carter got elected, all near age 55 and count the days, because Social Security offers immediate service that means when people call to say they quit work, employees rush to pay them immediately. It is the right of everybody to go to the head of the line. Meanwhile, millions of disabled people with personality disorders go back to work. Some report it; some do not. It does not matter. No one counts their work months timely. Everybody is answering the phones. By the time Social Security realizes somebody should be terminated, their overpayment is thousands of dollars. Then advocacy groups for The Ticket to Work call Social Security to argue that the wages are really a subsidy! Pragmatic Social Security Managers direct that these subsidies be accepted as written. If the person seeks waiver of paying back any overpayment, an Administrative Law Judge, who wears a transparent belt buckle, so he will not bump into walls, waives the overpayment. “Sociable” Security pours all of its production resources into new claims and mostly ignores its role as a public steward. Social Security is not stopping checks when disabled people go back to work, and they almost all do, it is not collecting the resulting overpayments, it is not realizing that people are being awarded workers compensation that should be offset from Social Security benefits, and it is not asking anyone to be responsible for their own lives, because it doesn’t want to offend anybody… and have them call a legislator.

To add insult to injury, Social Security decided that Social Security Claims Representatives (CR) need someone to show them how to do their complicated work. They created the position Technical Expert (TE) by promoting two Claims Representatives (Super CR) in each office from GS-11 to GS-12, an $11000 pay raise. They only have to work this job three years, and their pension will be the same as if they had worked this job 30 years. The CR job description had the word “complex” added to each duty to become the TE job description. Technical Experts are supposed to work complex overpayments, complex continuing disability reviews, complex expedited benefit reinstatements – things Claims Representatives have been doing for the past 25 years of their careers.

After Social Security created a national position description for Technical Experts, it was left to local managers to decide what their individual Technical Experts would actually do.

I think you should ask Social Security to compare its national position description for Technical Experts to what SUPER Claims Representative are really doing for a living.

Some Technical Experts have an expertise at gutting a job description. They will read publication changes to staff, preview training videotapes first to see if the rest would benefit, and mentor new employees. By the time that there are any new employees, the present batch of Technical Experts will themselves be age 55.

Some Technical Experts have scant experience in Disability (having always done Retirement claims), cannot use Microsoft Word, have never done any kind of overpayment action, and have no experience in the kinds of things that happen after entitlement begins.

Some Technical Experts have spent most of their time reminding their Manager and the staff that Claims Representatives didn’t lose any duties, and that being expert at something doesn’t mean having to actually do it. If anyone asks them a question, they go to someone with experience in that area and relay the response. Meanwhile their workload is 25% smaller, so they can contemplate.

I’m sure they’re laughing at their Manager while they go to the bank to deposit their $11000 pay raise.

A typical Social Security Office has this ratio: 1 Manager, 1 Assistant Manager, 1 Operations Supervisor, 1 Management Support Specialist, 1 Systems Coordinator, 2 Technical Experts, 9 Claims Representatives, 6 Service Representatives, and no clerks. There are 5 people GS-12 and higher to manage and mentor 15 production people who have no clerical support. The 5 manager/mentors spend much of their time printing computer lists of pending claims and asking the 15 production people for status, because between the Regional Commissioner Office and the Local Office, there is an Area Director Office with an Area Director, an Area Administrative Assistant and 2 Management Support Specialists. Their role is to print computer lists of pending claims and ask local Managers for status.

If all these people who ask for status were actually impacting the status, there would be no need for people to ask for the status. The status would be fine. Claims Representatives do not need anybody to do complex work. They know how to do it. What they do need is somebody to open the mail and answer the phone. Send email to President@WhiteHouse.gov or via http://www.Senate.gov and http://www.House.gov.

Overpayment references:

I checked http://www.ssa.gov/search/index.htm. I typed “overpayments” in the search window. The resulting list of documents was 15 pages long.

  1. PDF, a memo by the Office of the Inspector General concluded that the Social Security Administration’s “accounts receivable balance” on September 30, 1998, was $5.727 billion. According to ““1999 OASDI Trustees Report, ” “2000 OASDI Trustees Report,” and “2001 OASDI Trustees Report,” respectively, the Social Security Administration collected $0.87 million in Fiscal Year 1998, $0.92 million in Fiscal Year 1999, and $1.03 million in Fiscal Year 2000.

  2. PDF details a memo of 9/30/99 by the Office of the Inspector General. A study of overpayment waivers granted by the Social Security Administration August 1996 through June 1997 showed that 8.7% ($4.3 million) were incorrectly granted. Another 50.2% ($37.4 million) were improperly documented because proof of expenses was not actually obtained.

  3. PDG reprints a memo from the Office of the Inspector General to then Commissioner Apfel. A study of Social Security beneficiaries also getting Workers Compensation between January 1993 and June 1996 concluded that “better case monitoring of Workers Compensation offset could have prevented $385.1 million of overpayments and $141.6 million of underpayments.” Social Security’s reaction was “the Social Security Administration prefers to call them adjustments, not overpayments.”

Other responses to this search for “overpayments” give separate conclusions about overpayments by type of program or type of cause. Many response also detail the Byzantine steps the Social Security Administration must climb before collection is possible.

Send email to President@WhiteHouse.gov, or contact your legislators through http://www.Senate.gov and http://www.House.gov.

Moving this to MPSIMS.