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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today alerted the President and Congress that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed a detailed plan to review and reimburse, where appropriate, over 20,000 widow(er) beneficiaries, after SSA failed to adequately inform them of their survivor benefit options. The corrective action is the result of a whistleblower disclosure to OSC that SSA failed to inform survivors that they could delay, or withdraw and resubmit, their benefits applications until they reached full retirement age (FRA), resulting in a significant loss to beneficiaries over their lifetimes.
An audit conducted by SSA substantiated the whistleblower's allegations, identifying more than 21,000 beneficiaries who, despite being entitled to widow(er) benefits, were instead placed in a “suspended pay status" because they were subject to a government pension offset (GPO) reduction. Under the GPO, beneficiaries received no benefits if two-thirds of their government pension exceeded the monthly widow(er) benefit. Had the estimated 1,615 widow(ers) reviewed by the audit been adequately informed of their options, the SSA projected they would have collectively received over $42 million more in survivor benefits over their life expectancies.
In response to these findings, SSA provided OSC with a detailed plan to review and reimburse, where appropriate, all beneficiaries identified in the audit who were potentially affected by SSA's failure to inform them of their options. SSA will also implement new training and control measures to ensure employees accurately inform widow(er) claimants of their options going forward.
“Thanks to the whistleblower's vigilance in identifying and disclosing these matters to OSC, thousands of widowed spouses will be able to enjoy increased economic well-being, support, and peace of mind," said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “I applaud the willingness of SSA to strengthen its controls and employee training, so that future claimants receive a fair opportunity to maximize their benefits."