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‘It’s like a black hole’: Sen. Rick Scott still seeking answers for Social Security overpayments

ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida says he’s still waiting for answers from the Social Security Administration months after reporters uncovered millions in overpayments that the SSA later demanded back.

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Channel 9 Investigative reporter Shannon Butler also discovered claims of people being underpaid.

It has been two months since the acting Director of the Social Security Administration said it was going to review how it handled overpayments.

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Since then, there have been few answers to reporters’ questions about the mishap, but even Sen. Scott says he’s been stonewalled.

“They’re supposed to be doing this review…we haven’t gotten anything back on it,” Sen. Scott said. “Here’s why people are mad, the federal government, because it’s like a black hole.”

Scott says he “absolutely” expected to have some of those answers by now.

In the meantime, people like Ramona Harris are waiting to see if they have any other recourse. Harris says she wasn’t overpaid, but underpaid by $18,000.

It’s another issue beneficiaries have raised since our investigation began.

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“I’m 75 years old now and we have needs that we just can’t take care of right now,” Harris explained. “We’re living month-to-month. That $18,000-plus dollars could help an awful lot, just for those rainy days. And we work for it.”

However, the focus from Senators right now seems to be on the overpayments. In a bipartisan letter, Senators point to the “extreme financial hardship” for beneficiaries because of the government’s mistake.

They’re asking for details about what the agency is doing to stop overpayments and to help those affected.

The letter directly links to our reporting, exposing billions in overpayments.

However, even before that letter was sent, Sen. Scott sent his own letter asking when the review at SSA would be finished and who would be held accountable.

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“You should expect the leadership of every federal agency that has a problem to say, ‘okay, we’re going to change today.’ And they can direct that and then everybody will do it,” Scott said. “That’s why the system works.”

A Social Security spokesperson said the agency will respond directly to the Senators who wrote those letters, but they didn’t say when that would be.

An agency spokesperson told Channel 9 that, by law, it must try to get the money back. Sen. Scott told us he would have no issue with filing a bill to change the law if he needed to.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.