Senators calling for action on Social Security overpayments tied to COVID-19 stimulus checks

PITTSBURGH — 11 Investigates is getting action in Washington, D.C., following our reporting on the now millions of people affected by Social Security overpayments. Wednesday, we told you about a Congressional hearing in the House, following our investigation into the Social Security Administration asking people to repay billions of dollars, even when the overpayment wasn’t their fault.

>> COVID-19 stimulus checks are triggering social security overpayments across the country

Now, three U.S. Senators, including Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, are demanding the Social Security Administration answer a list of questions about why COVID-19 stimulus checks triggered overpayments, in violation of the agency’s own rules, and just how many people that has happened to.

Senators Ron Wyden (D, Ore.), Bob Casey (D, Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) sent a letter to the acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration, citing 11 Investigates reporting with our Cox Media Group sister stations and in partnership with KFF Health News.

The senators are also demanding answers from the Social Security Administration’s acting commissioner about what she’s done to address overpayments caused by the $3,200 in COVID-19 stimulus checks sent to people in 2020 and 2021. Those were not supposed to count against their income or assets, but many told 11 Investigates it did and caused them to lose their benefits.

The senators wrote:

“We are deeply concerned that beneficiaries are receiving overpayment notices in error.”

“If we can’t just get them to change administratively because, you know, they take an oath that they will follow the law,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) said. “So it may be it may mean we need to change the law.”

In a congressional hearing Wednesday, the SSA acting commissioner said the agency is required by law to try to get the money back once it’s been overpaid and pointed to staffing problems as a reason for overpayments.

The letter outlines many of the same questions we’ve asked the agency that it still hasn’t answered. After that hearing, the acting commissioner told 11 Investigates that the agency is committed to improvement.

“We will be doing a top-to-bottom review to see how we can further reduce the error rate,” Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi said.

She refused to answer our question about what she would say to people affected by these crippling overpayments.

The letter also mentions how these overpayments require a lengthy process to dispute and can cost people their SSI eligibility, which can also cost beneficiaries their access to Medicaid coverage.

The senators gave the Social Security Administration 30 days to respond to the letter

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