U.S. Capitol (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) might be able to catch more able-bodied recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if Congress provided more cash.

Witnesses and lawmakers made that argument today at a hearing on SSDI program management organized by a House Oversight & Government Reform entitlements subcommittee.

The SSA expects to pay a total of about $150 billion in benefits this year to 11 million disabled people and family members.

Patrick O’Carroll Jr., the SSA inspector general, said Congress should provide more cash for the continuing disability review (CDR) program — an SSA program that catches beneficiaries who have recovered and are physically able to return to work, or who never suffered from a serious disability in the first place.

For fiscal year 2014, which started Oct. 1, the Obama administration is seeking enough SSA funding to pay for at least 1.047 million full medical CDRs, O’Carroll said.

For fiscal year 2013, he said, Congress provided only enough funding for the SSA to conduct about 428,568 CDRs, and the SSA ended the fiscal year with a 1.3 million-case backlog.

The SSA estimates each dollar invested in CDRs results in $9 in savings over 10 years, O’Carroll said.

“We estimated [the] SSA would have avoided paying at least $556 million during calendar year 2011 if [the] SSA had conducted the medical CDRs in the backlog when they were due,” O’Carroll said.

During the hearing, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said the SSA needs to emphasize efforts to deter SSDI fraud as well as efforts to catch actual fraud, because of the difficulty of getting misspent benefits back from the recipients.

O’Carroll said the SSA and prosecutors are working on efforts to use fines and prison sentences to keep doctors, lawyers and others from helping people file fraudulent SSDI claims.

In one case in Puerto Rico, where a court could impose prison sentences, “I think we’re going to a very good signal sent,” O’Carroll said. 

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