Supplemental Security Income: Progress Made in Detecting and Recovering Overpayments, but Management Attention Should Continue - GAO Report
|Date:||Sept. 16, 2002|
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Federal social security programs
Income maintenance programs
Supplemental security income
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The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is the nation's largest cash assistance program for the poor. The program paid $33 billion in benefits to 6.8 million aged, blind, and disabled persons in fiscal year 2001. Benefit eligibility and payment amounts for the SSI population are determined by complex and often difficult to verify financial factors such as an individual's income, resource levels, and living arrangements. Thus, the SSI program tends to be difficult, labor intensive, and time consuming to administer. These factors make the SSI program vulnerable to overpayments. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has demonstrated a stronger commitment to SSI program integrity and taken many actions to better deter and detect overpayments. Specifically, SSA has (1) obtained legislative authority in 1999 to use additional tools to verify recipients' financial eligibility for benefits, including strengthening its ability to access individuals' bank account information; (2) developed additional measures to hold staff accountable for completing assigned SSI workloads and resolving overpayment issues; (3) provided field staff with direct access to state databases to facilitate more timely verification of recipient's wages and unemployment information; and (4) significantly increased, since 1998, the number of eligibility reviews conducted each year to verify recipient's income, resources, and continuing eligibility for benefits. In addition to better detection and deterrence of SSI overpayments, SSA has made recovery of overpaid benefits a high priority. Despite these efforts, further improvements in overpayment recovery are possible.