Tell Social Security Inspector General Gail Ennis: Forgive and Return the Trump Penalties to Seniors Now!

The Washington Post recently exposed how the Civil Monetary Penalty program, run by Trump-appointed Social Security Administration Inspector General Gail Ennis, levied unprecedented fines as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars on poor, disabled and elderly seniors -- many of whom had no hope of ever being able to pay.

Here’s an example of how this happens: Social Security kept depositing $1,400 a month into Gail Deckman bank account for 4 years after her husband died. Gail thought the money was legitimately hers, so she spent it on rent, clothes and gifts for her grandchildren. When the inspector general demanded the money back, they charged her $119,392 -- nearly three times what she received in error -- an excessive penalty never seen before in the 27 years since the program started.

Now, the Social Security Administration is garnishing her entire $704 monthly check until she’s 83. And turning 73 this year, she's stuck in her minimum-wage job flipping burgers at the convenience store in her local Rebel gas station to make ends meet.

A woman in Chicago was fined $132,000 after wrongly receiving $10,618 in benefits. A Denver woman cashed $14,960 in wrongly received checks, she was fined $168,000. A New Jersey woman is on the hook for nearly $435,000 after she accepted about $47,000 in benefits but failed to report a $120,000 house she inherited from her father and car loans she co-signed for her children -- despite the fact she said she was following a lawyer’s advice.

More than 100 beneficiaries were impacted that we know of and it resulted in at least 83 seniors charged and fined without due process a total of $11.5 million over a seven-month period ending in mid-2019.[1] The total number of seniors impacted is still unknown, but could be anywhere from dozens to hundreds more.

All of it set in motion during the Trump administration, when the little-known anti-fraud program run by the inspector general’s office disregarded regulations and deviated from how the program had recovered money since its inception in 1995, failing to take into account someone’s financial state, their age, their intentions, level of remorse, and other factors.[2]

It’s unacceptable. The good news is we know public pressure will have an impact.

After the Washington Post exposed it all last month, suddenly within a week, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency[3], the House Oversight and Government Reform committee in partnership with the House Ways and Means committee, and the White House Office of Management and Budget took action to hold IG Ennis accountable.

That’s a great first step, but it doesn’t help the disabled and poor seniors who are still stuck with the excessive penalties -- for a crime many of them didn’t even know they were committing at the time.

That’s why it’s up to us to demand Social Security forgive and return the Trump penalties to affected seniors now. Please add your voice and help us build the public pressure for action now!

[1] How a Social Security program piled huge fines on the poor and disabled, Washington Post
[2] Watchdog opens probe into huge Social Security fines to poor, disabled, Washington Post
[3] ‘Full investigation’ pledged of vast fines imposed by Social Security, Washington Post

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