Worker and Family Assistance:

Disability Benefits for Addicts

HEHS-94-178R: Published: Jun 8, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) controls over disability payments made to drug addicts and alcoholics. GAO noted that: (1) an estimated 250,000 addicts receive about $1.4 billion in annual disability payments and controls over these benefit payments are extremely lax; (2) although addicts receiving supplemental security income (SSI) benefits are legally required to attend treatment programs and have representative payees manage their benefits, addicts who qualify for disability benefits for other health reasons are not required to meet these mandatory requirements; (3) addicts receiving disability insurance (DI) benefits are not required to meet any payment requirements; (4) only about 1 in 5 SSI addicts are receiving the required treatment for their addiction; (5) of the 250,000 addicts in SSI and DI programs, about 100,000 do not have representative payees to help manage their funds; (6) Congress has proposed legislation that would strengthen controls over SSA disability payments to addicts by evaluating payees on a case-by-case basis and increasing the number of representative payees; and (7) SSA could identify all addicts that are enrolled in DI and SSI programs by conducting medical disability reviews, but SSA computer systems do not capture the necessary diagnostic information needed for such reviews.

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