House Dems Passed Bill to Protect Vulnerable Americans from SSA’s Overpayment Error

Last July 28, 2020, two Democratic subcommittee chairmen proposed a bill entitled the “Fairness for Seniors and People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act.”

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee, together with Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT), Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, introduced the house bill in the wake of reports coming from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that demand letters will be sent to beneficiaries of senior citizens and persons with severe disabilities (PWDs) for the collection of extra benefits they received. The said extras were actually overpayments sent out by the SSA at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

The two sub-committee chairmen found it critical to pass the bill as a way to protect the affected seniors and PWDs, their surviving spouses and children, from being forced to pay back the extra Supplemental Security Income (SSI) received in error from the SSA.

The legislation would put into law the appeal made by 19 civic organizations on behalf of senior citizens and PWDs, as the affected citizens were not aware they were overpayments. Moreover, due to the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, the families of the affected seniors and PWDs do not have the financial capability to pay back the extra benefits.

The bill garnered Lower House approval and was introduced to the Senate Upper House by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on October 21, 2020 and was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. While the need to act on the “Fairness for Seniors and People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act” is urgent, the bill has not yet been brought to the senate floor for discussion.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Emphasized the Urgency of the Bill

Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who originally cosponsored the bill said they took note that during the COVID-19 outbreak, the SSA prioritized the eligible vulnerable Americans in distributing the SSI benefits, However, Rep. Neal explained that

”To collect the overpayments would be unjust, as doing so would throw affected seniors and PWDs into financial crisis during an ongoing recession.” “Many of them are low income seniors and disabled individuals whose lives are always at the precipice of falling into crisis, and have to face a new potentially disruptive conflict.”

The Democratic Senator from Ohio also said that in giving the COVID-19 benefits, no one intended for such benefits to cause any injustice or harm to the recipients.

About the Vulnerability of American Seniors

According to a study conducted by the Federal Housing Administration, nearly 90% of adult homeowners nearing retirement age, prefer to remain in their respective home as they advance in years.

However, it’s important for families of seniors to make the home safe by taking safety and preventive precautions against injuries by reducing risks of falling, while at the same time ensuring their independence, In taking those steps, families of of retired seniors combine providing home care services to help their senior/s age longer and safely in place.

In addition, the National Institute of Aging (NIA), one of the non-government offices that put forward an appeal to House Representatives. Davis and Larson, reported that every year, more than 68% of elders get into slipping and falling accidents. The NIA report also stated that 80% of those falls take place in the bathroom.

Inasmuch as most bathrooms have slippery surfaces, quite a number of elderly people have been injured seriously and even fatally That is why caring for a senior at home is not an inconsequential matter even if they take safety precautions; such as that of making sure of placing only tested non slip shower mat for seniors on bathroom floors. Due to the aging conditions of their skins and bones, seniors are regarded as the most vulnerable members of American societies.