Benefit program wrongfully representing taxpayers

Friday, September 21, 2012
Chris Woodward (

Alarm bells are ringing in response to a Senate report that shows 25 percent of Social Security disability benefits were improperly awarded. But one non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers isn't overly shocked.

According to Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), it should come as a surprise to no one that there are improper payments throughout the federal government's benefit program.

Sepp, Pete (NTU)"What is news is how high the improper payment rate is in the disability programs; and worse, how many problems the federal administrative law system is contributing to the improper payment and the taxpayer waste abuse problem," he asserts.

The findings conclude an 18-month investigation by the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Three-hundred cases between 2006 and 2010 were selected randomly.

"Every time benefits are wrongly awarded, the cost to taxpayers is at least $300,000," Sepp relays. "That's the lifetime benefit that a typical disability recipient ends up getting."

He contends the entire process for approving disability benefits deserves scrutiny, as the report found cases in which benefits were awarded solely on a one-page document that was filled out the day before a hearing. Also, a person who was disabled as of April 2007 for carpal tunnel syndrome was working as a bartender several months later. There are even instances of people driving automobiles after claiming severe arm injuries.

"It has almost become mechanical on the part of many administrative law judges to just take a quick peek at some documentation, perhaps not even ask questions of the people at the hearings, and just rubber-stamp the benefits," Sepp concludes. "That's in large part, I think, because what we're talking about here is other people's money -- and the other people are the American taxpayers. They are not being adequately represented in this process."

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