WRAL Investigates

NC Treasurer's Office estimates $24M in benefit overpayments

Posted March 1, 2011

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— The state Treasurer’s Office estimates it has overpaid about $24 million in benefits over the past five years, and the biggest chunk is in one category.

When the state and federal governments both pay toward an individual's disability benefits, the total must still not exceed 65 percent of what the individual made before they became disabled. If the total outlay is greater, the individual ends up owing the difference.

In most cases, it is the state left chasing the IOU because state money is available quicker.

Tim Sturges was collecting disability benefits from the state before his military benefits kicked in. When they did, he had to pay back $12,600 to the state – $336 is taken out of his retirement check every month to pay the debt.

Attorney Michael Bertics represents people on disability and said part of the state’s problem is communication.

“State disability tends to turn on a lot earlier than Social Security,” he said. “I have one client who has been trying to tell them what the overpayment is for two years.”

State Treasurer Janet Cowell said she has been trying to strike a balance between a state law that helps people immediately and losing precious cash.

“The negative part is, it’s a system of trust, and when that person gets that Social Security payment, they are informed and some of that money is due back to the state as an offset,” she said.

WRAL Investigates NC Treasurer's Office estimates $24M in benefit overpayments

Elected in 2008, Cowell says she inherited a system that started looking for overpayment problems just a few years earlier.

“We’re detecting more of these, which in the past would’ve gone undetected,” she said.

The Treasurer's Office has $18 million outstanding total, across all years and all programs. The office has been collecting, though, and estimates it has received $28.4 million since 2005. Some of that is from money owed or mistakes made more than five years ago, according to the Treasurer’s Office.

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  • tchr313 Mar 2, 2011

    There's not many employers that would tolerate an employee calling in sick frequently due to poor health, or needing to take time off for dr appts. That's one reason that some are on disability.

    As for repaying overpayments---how would you like it if your employer hired you for $500 a week, for example. Then, 5 years later told you that they made a mistake and you were only supposed to get $400 a week and so your weekly check would be cut and you were forced to repay the overpayment.

  • driverkid3 Mar 2, 2011

    The state messed up, let them pay.

  • holmesap Mar 2, 2011

    In ref to my comment by saying the state should pay it back let me be more specific.The State workers more recently has made mistakes on unemployment,state taxes and now disability payments. I worked for 33 years being paraplegic all my because I didnt want any help from the state. Now I had to go out on disability and I have to make ends meet. When I was working if I made a mistake I had to make it right or be punished. Find out who the workers are making the mistakes and garnish their wages or terminate them. The victims or the citizens should not have to keep paying for the mistakes the state keeps making. If they would do their job correctly alot of those claiming to be disabled could be cut loose.

  • autism1231 Mar 2, 2011

    They can forgive payment to teachers and unemployeed but the disabled retiree who got no raises compared to the teachers must pay it back. Do they think they are rich. Their payments less medications probably are very low.

  • genralwayne Mar 2, 2011

    If I ran my business as haphazardly as these bureaucrats in Raleigh run this state, I'd be homeless. When are the voters in this state going to wake up and take notice? Sure wish I could hold a gun to my clients' heads and pick their pockets when I need more money.

  • miketroll3572 Mar 2, 2011

    If the State made the mistake then why should the people have to pay it back. The state should be punished no the people.

    Tell that to the IRS holmey......

  • jrfergerson Mar 2, 2011

    Avidreader I agree with you that people that claim disability may be able to do other jobs, but you seem to forget a big portion of companies have moved out of the country. And any organization that is hiring today only look at the best to hire and that my friend would not be one that already has a disability that might be the cause of them being absent from the job for a few days.

  • Garnerwolf1 Mar 2, 2011

    Don't worry Scottie, shouldn't take 'em long to find him now.

  • tommys5 Mar 1, 2011

    "If the State made the mistake then why should the people have to pay it back."holmesap

    You're kidding right?

  • Scottie Mar 1, 2011

    Go for it night train. You can join this list of those with delinquent taxes.

    http://www.dornc.com/collect/delinquent.html

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