NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Overpayments in the Social Security Program

December 29, 2014

When a child's parent dies, he is eligible to receive Social Security benefits up to the age of 19, as long as he is enrolled in an elementary or secondary school full time. Unfortunately, the program is flawed: according to a new audit report from the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General, the government has overpaid students and issued funds without verifying school enrollment.

Elizabeth Harrington at the Washington Free Beacon reports that the Social Security Act requires the government to verify a student's full-time enrollment status before distributing funds. But a federal audit reveals that the government has paid benefits without verification and made a number of overpayments. Based on an analysis of a random sample, the report estimates:

  • From January 2007 to December 2013, 106,336 students received $225.3 million in Social Security overpayments.
  • There were 246,252 beneficiaries who received $968 million in benefits even though the Social Security Administration had no evidence that they attended school.
  • The report estimates there could have been up to $345 million in overpayments as well as $1.3 billion in benefits that were not supported by evidence that the children were eligible for them.

Harrington offers an example of one student who received $5,328 in overpaid benefits from September 2012 to May 2013 because he reported being enrolled in school from May 2012 to May 2013. In reality, the student attended school for just 18 days in the 2012-2013 school year before dropping out.

Source: Elizabeth Harrington, "Social Security's Student Benefit Program Is a Mess," Washington Free Beacon, December 17, 2014. 


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