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Disability program made more than $1 billion in overpayments: GAO report

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The Social Security Administration has doled out roughly $1.3 billion in overpayments to about 36,000 people in the disability insurance program, government investigators said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office announced the estimate after it looked at persons in the Disability Insurance (DI) program who may have earned more on the job than they should have during a mandatory five-month waiting period — used to determine whether people have a long-term disability — and a nine-month trial work period when beneficiaries can perform limited work duties but not exceed certain earnings levels.

Among their findings, the GAO acquired earnings records from some individuals’ employers “that show they worked continually both during and after their waiting periods at a level of work that would normally result in a denial of benefits.”

Investigators looked at individuals who were beneficiaries as of December 2010 and determined there had been $1.29 billion in overpayments as of January of this year.

The GAO said the administration should set up a mechanism that can detect incorrect payments.

It did, however, acknowledge that its estimate would have to be fine-tuned through deeper analysis to determine the exact amount of overpayments and exact number of people who should not have obtained benefits.

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