Social Security overpayments in the form of disability insurance to people who are not eligible has reached approximately $1.3 billion over a three-year period, a government watchdog group reported.
Between December 2010 and January 2013, some 36,000 people received "potential overpayments"
from the Social Security Administration, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress that examines public fund payments.
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Applicants must undergo a five-month waiting period before becoming eligible for the benefits, during which time the person's profits cannot exceed $1,000 each month, CNN Money noted
The GAO found that thousands of disability insurance recipients had incomes that exceeded $1,000 each month.
Among the most extreme examples was a physician who over a three year period accumulated more than $90,000 in overpayments despite earning $22,000 per month during the five-month waiting period, CNN reported.
Once a recipient is ready to return to work, the from the Social Security Administration weans the individual off disability assistance by placing them on a nine-month trial work period in which their grants are reduced.
The GAO found that some recipients were receiving benefits long after the nine-month trial period ended, CNN reported.
In light of the report, the Social Security Administration said it would look into potential overpayments but pointed out that the 36,000 cases cited represented less than 1 percent of all disability insurance recipients.
"While our payment accuracy rates are very high, we recognize that even small payment errors cost taxpayers," a spokesperson said. "We are planning to do an investigation and we will recoup any improper payments from beneficiaries. It is too soon to tell what caused these overpayments, but if we determine that fraud is involved, we will refer these cases to our Office of the Inspector General for investigation."
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Disability insurance is available to Americans who are unable to work due to long-term conditions, which encompass physical and mental impairment.
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