The AP new service actually decided it was REALLY BIG NEWS that Social Security’s inspector general found evidence that 0.2 percent of payments were improper.
The news service devoted a major article to reporting that $2 billion in benefit payments over the last seven years appear to have been given to people who did not qualify for disability. The piece neglected to mention that the program paid out close to $900 billion in benefits over that period. This means that improper payments identified in the inspector general’s report were less than 0.3 percent of the total payments in the program. The AP story castigates Social Security for not “reining in” its judges. In fact, Administrative Law Judges are a completely independent corps, meant to review decisions made by local Social Security offices denying claims. This is like saying the police department should “rein in” judges because they don’t do everything the police want.
Since the piece does not provide any context it is likely that many people will be led to believe that the disability program is rife with fraud when in fact the report is indicating the opposite. It would be great if improper payments were zero, but in a program that pays out $140 billion in benefits every year, this is not going to happen. It makes sense to try to reduce improper payments as much as possible, but it doesn’t make sense to spend $10 billion to eliminate $2 billion in improper payments.