[DALLAS) November 6, 2023 — In a recent investigative report, CBS program “60 Minutes” shed light on a series of alarming practices within the Social Security administration, bringing to the forefront a myriad of concerning issues affecting beneficiaries across the nation.
The investigation uncovered that the Social Security administration has been dispatching over one million letters annually to beneficiaries, notifying them of overpayments dating back several decades, in some cases. Shockingly, the sums demanded back can reach several hundred thousand dollars, even for beneficiaries predominantly reliant on Social Security income today.
President of the Goodman Institute, John Goodman, expressed his dismay, stating, “No private pension treats retirees in such a manner. If they did, they would likely be in violation of federal law.”
Scholars affiliated with the Goodman think tank have meticulously documented a range of what they term “indefensible abuses” perpetrated by Social Security personnel. Esteemed Boston University economist, Laurence Kotlikoff, highlighted some of these issues during the CBS program “60 Minutes” segment aired last Sunday.
Kotlikoff has established a dedicated portal where individuals can share their own personal accounts of these “horror stories,” including cases such as:
- Social Security Suing a 32-Year-Old for Benefits Received 21 Years Ago, at Age 11.
- Social Security Demanding a Widow Repay $300,000 for Its Own Mistakes.
- Social Security Retrieving Funds from an 81-Year-Old Widow for Benefits Allegedly Received 45 Years Ago.
Goodman further pointed out that the agency’s response times leave much to be desired, with an average wait time of 35 minutes before a call is answered. When calls are finally answered, there is often a risk of receiving inaccurate information.
He emphasized that while individuals face significant challenges in rectifying benefit claim mistakes, even when they result from erroneous guidance provided by Social Security personnel, the agency appears unyielding in its pursuit of reclaiming overpayments.
The Institute has identified the following consequences resulting from inaccurate and misleading information disseminated by Social Security:
- The typical retiree is forfeiting an estimated $182,370 (in present-value terms) by claiming benefits prematurely.
- Over 13,000 widows and widowers have collectively lost $130 million in Social Security benefits due to errors in claiming spousal benefits (as per the Social Security Inspector General’s estimate).
- Married couples are also experiencing financial losses due to missteps in claiming spousal benefits.
In light of these revelations, the Goodman Institute advocates for the implementation of the following recommendations:
- Development of an online platform capable of providing accurate responses to all pertinent inquiries, complemented by an easily navigable private sector Social Security Calculator.
- Implementation of prompts accompanying benefit claims to ensure individuals fully grasp the costs and benefits associated with their decisions, including directing beneficiaries to an online calculator.
- Establishment of an external oversight panel, comprised of experts, to conduct periodic reviews of Social Security’s written communications with enrollees and potential enrollees for accuracy and completeness.
- Introduction of a one-year statute of limitations for the reclamation of overpayments.
About Goodman Institute
Led by Dr. John C. Goodman, the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research (GIPPR) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization that promotes private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector. Topics include reforms in health care, taxes, and entitlements.