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Investigation: Social Security benefits may be wrongfully awarded

Many people in West Virginia view Social Security disability benefits as a vital tool to help them cope with their disabilities. Without a doubt, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an essential lifeline for many deserving Americans. But according to a new congressional investigation, the Social Security Administration may be awarding benefits to a number of undeserving applicants-leaving less money available for those who really need it.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations recently completed a survey of the Social Security Administration (SSA), investigating 300 cases in which disability benefits had been awarded. The goal of the survey was to examine the normal processes of the SSA in order to inform decisions regarding the program's fiscal health. The results were surprising: in over 25 percent of those cases, the congressmen found that the SSA had approved benefits without properly examining instances of "insufficient, contradictory or incomplete evidence."

This suggests that a number of applicants who may not qualify for benefits are slipping through the cracks. The report warned that this was a severe problem, as the fiscal sustainability of the system has already been called into question. The number of new applications for SSDI benefits has more than doubled in the last 20 years; the SSA estimates that the total cost of SSDI benefits will grow by $5 billion this year alone.

Undeserving applicants, then, put an undue financial strain on an already strained system. The problem also slows down the already lengthy application process, which currently leaves some applicants waiting up to two years for their benefits.

The report warns that congressional action is essential to ensure that deserving applicants receive the benefits they need. A possible solution to this problem could involve more red tape, meaning that the already complicated process of applying for Social Security disability insurance could become even more onerous. We can hope, however, that whatever action Congress takes will protect the fiscal health of the Social Security system while still ensuring that benefits continue to be available to those who need them most.

Source: About.com, "Social Security Wrongly Paying Disability Benefits: Report," Robert Longley, Sept. 18, 2012

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