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SOCIAL SECURITY GLITCH SHORTCHANGES 300,000.

Byline: Deborah Adamson Daily News Staff Writer

It's deja vu for seniors and Social Security.

For the second time in two years, the Social Security Administration has found out that it has shortchanged recipients.

The latest discovery, traced to a 1972 computer glitch, shorted an estimated 300,000 retirees of $450 million.

Revealed last week, the mistake affects only certain seniors who worked past their retirement age and received Social Security checks. Their benefits were miscalculated.

Those eligible for payments will be identified and notified by mail in the next 12 months, said Ed Smallfield, spokesman for the Social Security Administration in San Francisco. If the recipient is deceased, the government will try to track down the heirs.

``We think it's a great thing that they've discovered and admitted this blunder,'' said Seymour Robinson, associate state coordinator for the political education committee at the American Association of Retired Persons.

``In terms of relative (percentage), it's only a few people,'' he added. ``But for these people, this is not small change.''

The affected group makes up 0.7 percent of 43 million Social Security beneficiaries. The average back payment is $1,500.

Two years ago, officials first discovered the same calculation mistake after an internal performance review. At that time, the agency found out that 400,000 pensioners were underpaid by $400 million. Social Security disbursed all but $50 million of those funds.

Last week the government said it found an additional 300,000 who are eligible for back payments. It found the second group after taking a closer look and realizing that the computer problem went as far back as 1972, instead of 1978.

``We're sure that we found everyone now,'' Smallfield said. ``We're definitely correcting the problem.''

Interest will not be calculated into the refunds. According to federal law, the government does not pay interest on underpayments, and seniors would not owe interest on overpayments by the government, Smallfield said.

For the first group, about 60,000 of the 400,000 recipients are deceased. The government is trying to find their heirs.

Officials don't know how many of the 300,000 people are still alive.

In any case, the Social Security Administration faces a daunting task.

Because of its antiquated computer system, complex calculations for these cases have to be done manually, officials said.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 8, 1996
Words:385
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