February 19, 2016

Trump Misleads About Social Security Fraud

Donald Trump is misleading people about the prevalence of Social Security fraud. At a recent Republican presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina, he said, “’thousands and thousands of people’ over the age of 106 are receiving Social Security benefits, even though they don’t exist.”

However, that statement is incorrect. The mistake is important for two reasons.

First, as a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, Trump has a responsibility to get the facts right. A wide audience is listening to everything he says. Misleading voters should not pave the way to the White House.

Second, Mr. Trump’s declaration is exactly the kind of misstatement that undermines the public’s support for the Social Security program.

Social Security lifts 21 million Americans out of poverty. It has made a dignified retirement possible for the broad middle class. Before the creation of Social Security, poverty among older Americans was pervasive. In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Committee on Economic Security estimated that at least one-half of all Americans aged 65 and older were poor. Social Security has never missed a payment; it has paid every dollar of earned benefits, on time and in full.

A report from the Social Security Administration’s inspector general last year found that there were an estimated 6.5 million Social Security number holders age 112 or older who are not listed as deceased. However nearly all of the holders of these Social Security numbers were not receiving benefits – and received no payments from Social Security.
“SSA did not have controls in place to annotate death information on the…number holders who exceeded maximum reasonable life expectancies and were likely deceased,” the report stated.

We should be expanding Social Security. Spreading false information that leads the public to believe the program is wasteful and inefficient is dangerous. Social Security fraud is rare, and the public is entitled to the truth.

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