Fraud, Waste and Abuse

The Washington Post is reporting on a successful recovery effort of funds from fraud, waste and abuse in Social Security:

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam….

the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

Wait, its not reporting on successful recovery of funds that were illegally gained by moochers. 

The report is sympathetic to people the government claims collected too many benefits:

In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.

“It was never Mike’s money, it was his mother’s,” Brenda Samonds said. “The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter. We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.” The government mailed its notice about the debt to the house Mike’s mother lived in 40 years ago.

This is what most “waste/fraud/abuse” looks like — minor book-keeping issues.  Most of the time there is either a prompt reconciliation, or a decision to let things slide as reconciling would be more costly than eating the costs.  So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumurate or any and all of the previous.

51 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Well, they’ll never go after the Halliburton empire for massive waste, fraud, and abuse, because they’re under the Imperius Curse.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumurate or any and all of the previous.

    Or they’re a slackjawed fuckwit, as we saw two threads down.

  3. 3
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: That must be it. Jesus Christ, this is stupid.

  4. 4
    Zifnab25 says:

    So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is..

    Really just advocating that the programs be eliminated. Because, let’s face it. Every dollar spent on Medicare or Social Security or UI or SNAP or what-have-you, is wasted. That money could have been going to someone in a really nice suit working for a Fortune 500 company, who’d have earned it through free market capitalism, dontchaknow.

  5. 5
    jonas says:

    Don’t forget foreign aid! People think that, along with the Young Buck T-Bone Program, is like 50% of the budget or something.

  6. 6
    srv says:

    Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

    Yeah, the poors have such options other than to let things slide when Obama’s henchmen shake them down.

  7. 7
    JDM says:

    Prove grandpa didn’t get an extra $150 back in ’72. I’ll wait.

  8. 8
    Roger Moore says:

    So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumurate or any and all of the previous.

    Or includes “programs I disapprove of” as a category of waste, rather than just spending that doesn’t serve the ostensible purpose of the program it’s part of. If you’re allowed to count the entire F-35 program as waste, for example, there’s a lot of savings out there.

  9. 9
    low-tech cyclist says:

    This is what most “waste/fraud/abuse” looks like — minor book-keeping issues.

    With the Bush Administration being the exception that proves the rule, of course. Remember when they simply lost track of several billions of dollars in cash – as in regular paper money – in Iraq?

    Of course, that sort of waste never bothered the “waste, fraud, and abuse” fans very much. Can’t figure out why, can you?

  10. 10
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @low-tech cyclist: But honestly, on the scale of the Federal Budget, $10 billion/year is a reconciliation error.

  11. 11
    Mark says:

    and then there is this
    Estate Recovery for some Medi-Cal payments
    http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/service....._cont.aspx

  12. 12
    Mnemosyne says:

    And, of course, the flying monkeys on the right will screech endlessly about this government overreach without ever acknowledging that it’s happening because of a bill the Republican House passed.

  13. 13
    Poopyman says:

    the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old.

    An average of $1785 per, accumulated over how many years?

    Big fish, big fish.

  14. 14
    Jeff( the other one) says:

    So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumerate or any and all of the previous.

    AKA a Republican

  15. 15
    opiejeanne says:

    OT, but I ran across this site this morning and it made me laugh, although I suppose it was inevitable.

    http://www.teapartynovels.com/

    The reviews on Amazon of the first novel either point out the flaws in the writing as well as the ridiculous bias and cardboard characters (all the Democrats are evil, all the Republicans are saintly family men), or over the top love from the RW readers. One review said it wasn’t worth the 99 cents it cost.

    I browsed the first chapter and the main character is a lawyer working for either the county or the state, from Indiana contemplating a run for Congress so he can “…tackle the tax code… cut the frivolous pork left and right …” His lawyer friend is egging him on and wants to be the next Karl Rove.

  16. 16
    Poopyman says:

    OT, but who knows how long Newsmax will keep this headline:

    Murdoch: I Could Live with Hillary

    I smell sitcom!

  17. 17
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    But honestly, on the scale of the Federal Budget, $10 billion/year is a reconciliation error.

    Tru dat, but it’s still a few times larger than pretty much any other example of waste/fraud/abuse that anyone’s likely to find.

    I guess my point is that if anyone’s all hot under the collar about “waste, fraud, and abuse” in librul programs, but didn’t have veins popping out of their neck about the disappearing cash in Iraq, then they just hate librul programs and love conservative ones, and whether they’re run well or shoddily is beside the point.

  18. 18
    Pen says:

    I guess I’m behind the times, but I thought that debts weren’t recoverable from the debtors children. Estate yes, children no. When did that change?

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Poopyman: Like Arrested Development, only not nearly as witty, am I right? Perhaps if we get Jessica Walter to play Hillary? And Jeffrey Tambor to play Rupert?

    I’m wondering if the cost of recovering these more or less nickles and dimes from millions is actually a good use of government resources, but then again, I’ve got this insane socialist/Islamist/atheist notion of utilitarianism in me.

  20. 20
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    And, of course, the flying monkeys on the right will screech endlessly about this government overreach without ever acknowledging that it’s happening because of a bill the Republican House passed.

    Nor should they acknowledge it, I hate to say.

    The story links back to the original bill, which was passed in…2008, when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker.

  21. 21
    catclub says:

    @Zifnab25: ” Every dollar spent on Medicare or Social Security”

    Dean Baker points out that most money wasted on Medicare benefits overpriced Doctors, or Pharma, or Medical Device manufacturers — not older poor people.

    And there is no apparent benefit in terms of improved lifespan compared to other nations.

  22. 22
    Mnemosyne says:

    Totally off-topic, but Balloon-Juice related: A Land More Kind Than Home, by Cole’s buddy Wiley Cash, is the Kindle Daily Deal today (Friday 4/11):

    http://www.amazon.com/Land-Mor.....+than+home

  23. 23
    Tiny Tim says:

    The idea is that these are Social Security survivor benefits that were earned by the kids. But the money isn’t actually earned by the kids, it’s just added to the check of the parent. They don’t know which child supposedly earned the benefits because the additional benefits aren’t even linked to a specific child if there are multiple chidlren, it’s just “how many children do you have” and the check goes up accordingly.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    D’oh! I was confused by the reference to 2012 in the title of the bill.

  25. 25
    catclub says:

    @low-tech cyclist: “several billions of cash in Iraq.”

    I remember the number $8 billion coming up. More than the usual several.

  26. 26
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Pen:

    I guess I’m behind the times, but I thought that debts weren’t recoverable from the debtors children. Estate yes, children no. When did that change?

    That has indeed been the standard, as the WaPo story itself acknowledges:

    The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

    I’m not sure what sort of loophole the Social Security Administration has, but I think it’s pretty despicable to act on it.

    Of course, their real loophole seems to be that they can just take the money without asking you or presenting anyone with any evidence that you owe it, if you’ve got a Federal or state income tax refund check coming. (And how does this work at the state level? I can understand the IRS taking the SSA’s word for it, but one would hope a state tax agency would want to see some evidence from the SSA that they had an actual claim on the money.)

    The story has all sorts of stuff from the SSA about “oh, we sent letters to this address” where the person hasn’t been living in decades. But how do you get to take someone’s current tax refund without getting access to the address on their current tax return? That one boggles my mind.

  27. 27
    Jay C says:

    @Poopyman:

    Murdoch: I Could Live with Hillary

    I smell sitcom!

    More like reality TV: “Crazy House!“: Old Rupert and a couple of minions (and maybe the least-intelligent of his kids) in one wing: Bill and Hillary Clinton in another: each side (especially the Murdochs) with heavy media presence.
    Rupert as the Resident Winger; Hillary as the Shrill Lefty; Bill as the Comic Relief/Prank-Puller, with occasional visits from Chelsea as the Sane One…
    I smell ratings bonanza!!!

  28. 28
    Baud says:

    @Poopyman:

    Murdoch: I Could Live with Hillary

    Stupid death taxes.

  29. 29
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @catclub: Well, ‘several’ is a pretty flexible term.

  30. 30
    Amir Khalid says:

    @catclub:
    I remember seeing the photos of pallets loaded with cash, and thinking, WTF? You’re just asking for that money to get stolen.

  31. 31
    Anna in PDX says:

    @low-tech cyclist: It would be great if SSA garnished Paul Ryan’s salary based on the survivorship benefits that put him through private school, though.

  32. 32
    Ruckus says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    They were and it was.
    Is that fraud, if the intended result and the actual result are the same?

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    @Amir Khalid

    Shows how far we’ve come that it wasn’t infected with smallpox.

  34. 34
    ericblair says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    Tru dat, but it’s still a few times larger than pretty much any other example of waste/fraud/abuse that anyone’s likely to find.

    One man’s Fraud, Waste, and Abuse is another man’s boat payment. Most of the easy stuff has been done, because it’s an easy win for any new administration. The rest of it is either difficult to tease out from valid disbursements and either is hard to justify above other issues in running the government, or may not be worth it from a time and money perspective. Then there’s money that’s only wasted in retrospect: the ad industry quip is that half of all ad money is wasted, but nobody knows which half. Finally there’s obvious waste that is protected by sixteen hundred pound gorillas who are not nohow never going to give it up without a fight to the death, and means that any government taking these ones on has to clear the decks and prepare for war. In short, fighting waste is a combination of swatting flies and battling alligators.

    @low-tech cyclist:

    I’m not sure what sort of loophole the Social Security Administration has, but I think it’s pretty despicable to act on it.

    Or Congress could change the law, but that’s crazy talk.

  35. 35
    NorthLeft12 says:

    If enough people do what Ms. Grice does and take the government to court, that $714 million will be chump change [it sorta already is] by the time they get done with this.

    Also, that $714 million is peanuts compared to what some mega-corporations avoid in taxes every year.

  36. 36
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Amir Khalid: Years ago the Bead Society of Greater New York had a speaker who was an Army Public Relations officer. He was there to talk about a program the Army had of teaching hobby/crafts to Iraqi children. Bead Society member had contributed beads and other supplies to the program. The captain (IIRC) described to us the cash that was kept in the office and which officers would take some off the pile when they went to speak with Iraqi officials. Just take a few thousand or more, no logging of how much and who was getting the money. Totally casual. I was very upset by the story.

  37. 37
    Geeno says:

    @Amir Khalid: I think the intention was to make it easier to steal. Just get a fork lift and you have your share.

  38. 38
    Matt says:

    So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumurate or any and all of the previous.

    Just depends on what you define WFA; I’m pretty sure the conservative movement has redefined it to mean “any spending that doesn’t directly benefit conservative causes”…

  39. 39
    Pen says:

    @low-tech cyclist: by the SSA’s logic I should have been filing tax returns since I was born. I know my parents spend a ton of money raising me, yet the government never once considers that income on my part. Talk about one hell of a double standard.

  40. 40
    DK2 says:

    This post clears up a lot of things for me, since I just dealt with something similar this week. After some poor planning last tax year, and having to write checks to both the state and feds, I made sure to arrange for refunds this year, and ended up with good sized refunds from both. I deposited both checks and another one from a small job I had done, all at the same time, so I didn’t notice that my federal refund was $83.40 less than what my tax return said I was going to get.
    Just this week, I got a letter from the treasury department advising me that my refund had been reduced by $83.40, and gave a number that I could call if I had any questions. When I finally got a human being on the line, she explained that it was because of an overpayment that social security had made to me in…1977.
    Now, my mom passed away in 1974, and as I was 20 at the time, and in college, I remember getting a monthly check from social security. That’s a long time ago, but it sure seems like I only got checks for a year or so, and of course I don’t remember the amount. But if I had to guess, I’d say that I was getting $83.40 a month, and they overpaid me a month after I turned 23 in 1977.

  41. 41
    Scotius says:

    @Poopyman:

    I smell sitcom!

    I smell Ben Gay and sulfur.

  42. 42
    burnspbesq says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    What, exactly, do you believe that (a) Halliburton owes the Feds and (b) can be proven to be owed by a preponderance of the evicence?

  43. 43
    cckids says:

    @Tiny Tim:

    But the money isn’t actually earned by the kids, it’s just added to the check of the parent.

    This is not correct; at least it wasn’t in the 60’s through the 80’s, when I “received” survivor benefits from the death of my mother. My sisters & I each received a check each month, in our names with c/o our dad’s name.’

    ETA: not that we knew we were getting it, my dad & stepmom had complete control of it. I found out by accident when I was 18. When Paul Ryan talks about going to college on his benefits, I always think “lucky you”.

    Also, too, the comments on that article are so stupid as to be comical. Several people note that it passed in 2008 (overrode Bush’s veto), and are SURE that Senator Obama “slipped this into the farm bill” with nefarious intent.

    How do these people get themselves fed & dressed?

  44. 44
    catclub says:

    @cckids: “How do these people get themselves fed & dressed?”
    Have you watched Downton Abbey? Valet and Maid.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @cckids:

    My brother and I got them, too, after my mom died, but my dad was pretty open that (a) checks were coming in our name and (b) those checks were being put into an account for our college funds so, no, we couldn’t go out and buy fur coats and dune buggies.

    But my dad owned his own business, so he didn’t need that money for day-to-day expenses.

  46. 46
    cckids says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yeah, my parents needed it to a degree, but they could definitely have put away, say, one of the three checks each month towards a college fund for us, even have split it between the three of us and our brother & sister, we certainly wouldn’t have minded. It would have saved us at least some of the student loans.

    My stepmom is a wonderful, loving person, but when it comes to money? Tight as can be.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @cckids:

    My stepmom didn’t come into the picture until a couple of years after the checks started arriving, so she never had any say in it. ;-)

  48. 48
    Renie says:

    In 1966 my father died and left my mother with five children under the age of 16. She was able to collect SS benefits for us until we were either 18 or 21 (I forget which one) and longer if we were in college. In the last 80s SS notified her she had to pay them back for overpayments she got on the last two kids. She was sure they were wrong. I went with her to the SS office and the first thing they did was give her a form to sign claiming SS was correct and she would pay it back in payments (It was a couple of thousands I forget the exact amount). I told the guy she wasn’t signing anything until they showed us some paperwork detailing the overpayments, They didn’t have the paperwork cuz it was in a warehouse in Flushing NY (we were on Long Island). I pressed him on how did they know there was an overpayment if they didn’t have any paperwork. We left without anything resolved but the guy kept threatening my mother they would take the overpayment out of her SS when she collected at 62. They continued sending her so many letters that scared her she just paid them back. I found the whole thing a disgrace.

  49. 49
    HRA says:

    In 2013, I overpaid the IRS. My W-2 form had the wrong earnings on it. I received a letter stating I had overpaid them in March of this year. On the last page (P.4) of the 2 page letter, it says I will not get a refund.

  50. 50
    mclaren says:

    Richard Mayhew has told so many lies and purveyed so many gross distortions about America’s broken healthcare system that all the lies tend to get lost…but this time, Richard Mayhew has outdone himself.

    This post has got to be the single biggest lie Mayhew has ever told.

    This is what most “waste/fraud/abuse” looks like — minor book-keeping issues. Most of the time there is either a prompt reconciliation, or a decision to let things slide as reconciling would be more costly than eating the costs. So anyone who claims that there are tens of billions of dollars of easy to cut or recover WFA in the federal budget is either a fool, a liar, an innumurate or any and all of the previous.

    This is a lie so colossal, it blots out the sun.

    The plain fact of the matter is that Medicare Part D is a gigantic example of waste and fraud and abuse by Big Phrama companies, a grotesque giveaway to giant drug companies that costs America tens of billions of dollars per year that we don’t need to spend, and that other countries don’t need to spend.

    …the drug benefit that ultimately emerged – “Medicare Part D” – with President George W. Bush’s 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) was the result of a much stronger power than common sense: corporate lobbying. Indeed, as argued in the 60 Minutes exposé, “Under the Influence,” the pharmaceutical industry all but wrote the law. Former congressmen and senators who had registered as lobbyists for the industry then endeavored to get it passed. Thomas Scully, a former hospital industry lobbyist who was appointed by Bush to run Medicare, was the primary negotiator with Congress over the MMA. He managed to obtain a waiver of federal ethics rules that allowed him to negotiate for lobbying jobs while still running Medicare, and in the lead up to the law’s passage, actually threatened to fire his chief actuary if he revealed a higher cost estimate for the program. Meanwhile, the main proponent of the bill in the House – Congressman Billy Tauzin, who had received significant campaign funding from the pharmaceutical industry – was actually already looking for lobbying jobs while the legislation was under consideration. Within weeks of its passage, he was in negotiations with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the chief lobbying group for the industry, for a position.

    The profound generosity of the 2003 Act – not in terms of benefits for seniors, but with respect to profits – should therefore come as little surprise. First, the bill created an entirely privatized, administratively wasteful, and unnecessarily complex system of Pharmaceutical Dispensary Programs (PDPs) to administer the benefit. Under this system, seniors must choose from dozens of plans with various costs and differing formularies: Given the complexity of aggregating prices, premiums, and deductibles together with a universal human incapacity for predicting future illnesses, seniors succeed in choosing the cost-optimal plan (according to a 2012 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research) less than 10 percent of the time.

    But the real prize of the law lay elsewhere: By explicitly outlawing Medicare from involving itself in “negotiations between drug manufacturers and pharmacies and PDP sponsors,” the bill ensured that Medicare would pay richly for the drugs it purchased. Notably, when it comes to all other healthcare – including physician services, hospitalizations, lab tests, and so forth – Medicare essentially has a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach to pricing. When it comes to prescription drugs, however, Medicare isn’t even allowed to use its purchasing power to try to get a better deal for US taxpayers, which is particularly problematic because many prescription drugs are patent-protected, giving the seller monopoly-power in determining prices.

    Source: “Why Drug Prices Are Out of Control, or Money Well Spent by Big Pharma,” W. A. Gaffney, 24 January 2014, truthout.org.

    Richard Mayhew is lying to you.

    His lies have now become so outrageous, so obscenely shameless, that the refusal of people on the Balloon Juice forum to call Richard Mayhew out for his non-stop grotesquely enormous lies about American healthcare threatens to destroy the credibility of this entire forum.

  51. 51
    Original Lee says:

    Last year, the IRS lost our check that was attached to our return. We noticed in June that the check had not been cashed and contacted them. After about a week of back-and-forth calls, they told us to send another check with interest because it was a late payment. Then we got a series of letters outlining the consequences of not paying. It was only $50 but it really irked me that we had to pay 6 weeks’ interest when WE were the ones that figured out the check had been lost.

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