Retirement Security:

SSA Overpayment Recovery

HEHS-96-104R: Published: Apr 30, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the Social Security Administration (SSA) recovers overpayments of benefits. GAO found that: (1) SSA is precluded from upwardly adjusting the amount it withholds from a recipient's income or benefit to repay overpayments at the time of cost of living increases because it collects supplemental security income (SSI), retirement and survivors insurance (RSI), and disability insurance (DI) benefit overpayments based on a fixed amount; (2) allowing SSA to increase the monthly withholding amount at the time of a cost of living adjustment could accelerate the recovery of overpayments without imposing an undue burden on recipients or incurring excessive administrative costs; (3) accelerating recoveries while recipients are still receiving benefits improves the chance of collecting overpayments; (4) SSA administrative costs would likely increase only in the first year of implementation; and (5) the cost of notifying recipients of the new withholding procedures would be negligible, since SSA already notifies recipients when overpayments occur.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: SSA should make all future adjusted recovery amounts in the SSI program a percentage of the total monthly income and all future adjusted recovery amounts in the RSI and DI programs a percentage of the monthly benefit amount.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA believes that the benefits of implementing the recommendation are low compared to other debt collection improvements it is considering. As a result, SSA does not believe it will be able to give serious consideration to implementing this recommendation in the near future.

    Recommendation: SSA should determine whether it would be cost-effective to convert all existing adjusted recovery amounts in the SSI, RSI, and DI programs to a percentage of the monthly payment amount.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA believes that the benefits of implementing the recommendation are low compared to other debt collection improvements it is considering. As a result, SSA does not believe it will be able to give serious consideration to implementing this recommendation in the near future.

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