Supplemental Security Income:

Administrative and Program Savings Possible by Directly Accessing State Data

HEHS-96-163: Published: Aug 29, 1996. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) use of online access to state databases on income information to determine whether it could: (1) improve the administration of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program; (2) reduce overpayments; and (3) easily implement online access nationwide in SSA field offices.

GAO found that the use of online access to state-maintained income data could: (1) improve the administration of the SSI program by cutting the time needed to verify client information; (2) prevent or detect overpayments due to underreported and unreported benefit income; (3) replace the current computer-matching system that relies on old data; (4) enable necessary security measures to protect client confidentiality; and (5) be inexpensively implemented nationwide with minimal programming.

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: To prevent overpayments or detect them sooner, the Commissioner of Social Security should require claims representatives to use online access to routinely check for unreported sources of income when initial and subsequent assessments of eligibility are done, provided that it is cost-effective to do so and that the data available online pertain to the time periods covered by SSI payments.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation pertained to wages and payments from unemployment insurance (UI), and it has been superceded by GAO report number HEHS-98-75. In this subsequent report, GAO discussed a newly available data source from the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) that would permit SSA to discover undisclosed wages and UI more quickly and efficiently than would online access to state wage data. On January 2, 2001, SSA began using this new source in all field offices to detect undisclosed wages and UI.

    Recommendation: To prevent overpayments or detect them sooner, the Commissioner of Social Security should develop automatic interfaces with state databases that comply with laws and standards governing computer matching, privacy, and security that can: (1) more fully automate the earnings and UI computer matches; and (2) identity additional income sources that do not currently have computer matches.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1998, SSA replaced the quarterly wage and unemmployment insurance matches it did with most states with a quarterly match using the same data, but maintained centrally by the Office of Child Support Enforcement. Also in 1998, SSA implemented a monthly match for pension income by the Office of Personnel Management and the Railroad Retirement Board.

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