Flaws in Controls Over the Supplemental Security Income Computerized System Cause Millions in Erroneous Payments

HRD-79-104: Published: Aug 9, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 1979.

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Internal control weaknesses over the Social Security Administration's (SSA) computer system have resulted in over $25 million in erroneous benefit payments to Supplemental Security Income recipients. Administration of the Supplemental Security Income program depends on a highly complex computerized system.

Currently, over 4 million persons receive Supplemental Security Income benefits that are automatically computed based on the information housed in the computerized system's automated records. Since recipient information can change monthly, it must be closely controlled to make sure that correct benefit payment amounts are made. The SSA designed an automated exception control process to help assure that all Supplemental Security Income claims and post eligibility events are accurately entered and correctly posted to the computerized system's automated database. However, the process does not always work, and inaccurate beneficiary data can be entered and used to compute benefit payment amounts. Instructions are inconsistent concerning the appropriate actions needed to correct inaccurate beneficiary data, thus causing confusion at field offices. Based on recipient records existing as of September 1978, it is estimated that about $20 million in erroneous payments have occurred in the Supplemental Security Income program because of inadequate controls in the automated data exchange with the Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance computerized system.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare should direct the Commissioner of SSA to improve controls over the Supplemental Security Income program's computerized system by: (1) correcting deficient exception controls in the system; (2) improving the documentation of the system's exception control process at the field office level; (3) restricting the system override capability to supervisory personnel with appropriate authority to make these override decisions; (4) removing the data exchange override capability and the default on verification provision from the computerized system; (5) modifying the Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance computer system to provide a complete payment record history; (6) modifying the Supplmental Security Income system to properly post Retirement, Survivor, and Disability Insurance eligibility decisions to all appropriate data segments in the computerized master record; (7) removing system limitation that necessitate the manual calculation and control of forced payment cases; (8) establishing more controls over forced payment cases, assuring that all posteligibility events affecting these cases are processed in a timely manner; and (9) reviewing existing forced payment cases to identify reasons for forced payment, verify accuracy of all payments made, and return cases not required to forced payment status as soon as possible.

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