There has been much made recently of customer service issues with Social Security, to the point where Congress held a hearing about the issue earlier this month. Now, there’s a new report about a whole different Social Security-related nightmare.
The Washington Post reported last week about the Civil Monetary Penalty program within the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. The program is meant to stamp out disability fraud but, according to the Post, it levied unfairly at more than 100 people.
“The inflated fees were set in motion during the Trump administration when attorneys in charge of a little-known anti-fraud program run by the inspector general’s office levied unprecedented fines against Deckman and more than 100 other beneficiaries without due process, according to interviews, documents, and sworn testimony before an administrative law judge,” the Post report said.
“In doing so, they disregarded regulations and deviated from how the program had recovered money since its inception in 1995, failing to take into account someone’s financial state, their age, their intentions and level of remorse, among other factors,” the report stated.
Some of the people were fined more than the amount of money they had received from Social Security, the Post report said. In addition, two employees of Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General were “escorted out of the agency’s headquarters” after they objected to the fines.
“As a 27-year public servant who cares deeply about the Inspector General’s oversight mission, I had no choice but to speak up when I witnessed the corruption of an anti-fraud program I helped build,” attorney Deborah Shaw, who later testified about what she saw in the program, told the newspaper. “While I strongly believe that those who commit fraud against public entitlement programs deserve to be held accountable, I also believe that each person accused of misconduct deserves due process,”
The acting head of the Social Security Administration vowed an investigation, while members of Congress pledged to do something about the report.
“We are outraged by this stunning report, which alleges that Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General levied unprecedented fines against more than 100 seniors and people with disabilities without due process, under procedures adopted during the Trump Administration,” three House Democratic leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee—Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT), and Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL)—said in a statement.
“We call on President Biden and Acting Commissioner of Social Security Kilolo Kijakazi to swiftly investigate this apparent abuse of authority, to put in place safeguards to prevent future abuse, and to provide relief to any individuals wrongfully victimized,” they said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.