WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agencies set a new record for improper payments last year, shelling out $125 billion in questionable benefits after years of declines.
The payments included tax credits for families that didn’t qualify, Medicare payments for treatments that might not have been necessary, and unemployment benefits for people who were actually working.
Improper payments increased by $19 billion over the previous year, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. In addition to fraud, the errors included overpayments and underpayments, as well as payments made without proper documentation.
While the errors were spread among 22 federal agencies, three programs stood out: Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Together, the three programs accounted for more than $93 billion in improper payments.
“This taxpayer money was not spent securing our borders, it was not spent on national defense, and it was not spent contributing to a safety net for those in need,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “This is a problem that is going to get worse year after year if we do not get a handle on it now.”