ORLANDO, Fla. — A Channel 9 investigation is gaining traction in the nation’s capital with lawmakers demanding answers from the Social Security Administration, including a call for Congressional hearings.
It comes two weeks after we told you that the Social Security Administration is trying to collect $20 billion in overpayments from hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of vulnerable, low-income Americans.
Here in Florida, there are about 5 million people on some form of Social Security. People like Jasmine Gonzalez who the government says owes nearly $27,000 in overpayments, pointing to a lottery ticket she cashed for her mother 28 years ago.
“I think Social Security should really look into people’s overpayments correctly and I think they should correct their cases,” Gonzalez said. “It shouldn’t take 10 years, five years or three years to be corrected, and they’ve taken out people’s money and people who already live on a low budget.”
Since Channel 9′s first report, we have heard from people around the country in the same situation.
9 Investigates talked to lawmakers from both parties, including Congressman Mike Carey who sits on the House Subcommittee on Social Security.
“I think we need to have a hearing,” Carey said. “We need to come to grips with where we are right now, find out what the problems are, and fix the problems.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, who sits on the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, echoed those comments.
“We’ve let the federal agency know we expect them to stop and not penalize those people,” Brown said. “They may have been overpaid over the years, but it’s not like they have a savings account now of those overpaid dollars that they can simply pay back.”
Hearings and oversight won’t stop the claw-back letters hitting mailboxes across Central Florida right now.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott called for reforms, but gave no indication that overpayments would be forgiven.
“When the Social Security Administration tells you a number, then they should be held accountable,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, the union representing Social Security employees said the agency is critically understaffed and that increased funding is needed to help deal with this and other issues, but so far, proposed policy changes have yet to pass amid gridlock in D.C.
For more than a year, we have been trying to get answers from the SSA on this. The agency has declined our request for an interview but said the agency has a responsibility to try to recover the money when it catches mistakes.
Carey said he plans to find out how many people have been impacted by this and that as a federal agency, it should give answers to the American public.
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