Implementing GAO's Recommendations on the Social Security Administration's Programs Could Save Billions

HRD-81-37: Published: Dec 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 31, 1980.

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Income security programs account for over one-third of the federal budget. The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers some of the largest income security programs, including Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). GAO has issued numerous reports recommending changes in SSA income security programs. Therefore, GAO undertook a review of the income security programs managed by SSA to determine what actions have been taken on previous recommendations and what remains to be implemented.

In its review, GAO found that fully implementing its recommendations would save $1.3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 1982 and about $4.5 billion in FY 1983 to 1985. There would be similar savings in later years. The recommendations that would produce the most substantial savings would affect the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Trust Fund and would require changes to the Social Security Act.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because Congress has not acted after 5 years, this recommendation should be withdrawn. This recommendation was originally made to Congress in HRD-79-14, December 1978, over 7 years ago.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to require states to deposit social security taxes semimonthly or biweekly.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to revoke section 224(d), which allows states to offset their portion of disability benefits.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should consider requiring states to deposit social security taxes using the same schedule that states now use to deposit withheld income taxes.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to compute benefit amounts to the nearest penny or to the nearest 10 cents as proposed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should eliminate the minimum benefit provision for new beneficiaries. To minimize the hardship to the few needy beneficiaries not eligible for SSI, Congress could authorize a limited SSI payment which would replace the portion of the social security benefit lost through eliminating the minimum benefit provision.

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to require that the social security offset be made effective when workers' compensation benefits are awarded, rather than when SSA is notified of the award.

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to provide for determining SSI benefit eligibility and payment amounts on a monthly retrospective basis rather than the quarterly prospective basis.

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress, in cooperation with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), should determine the controls that would best provide additional appropriate and feasible financial incentives and enact legislation to establish them to effectively control AFDC payment errors. Congress should consider the HHS study to determine an ultimate error rate goal in establishing the needed financial incentives.

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As part of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), Congress enacted a permanent fiscal sanction for excess state errors above 4 percent in FY 1983 and 3 percent in FY 1984 and 1985.

    Matter: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees should retract the conference committee directive for federal fiscal sanctions against states based on the AFDC quality control error rates.

  10. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As part of TEFRA, Congress enacted a permanent fiscal sanction for excess state error above 4 percent in FY 1983 and 3 percent in FY 1984 and 1985.

    Matter: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees should retract the conference committee directive for federal fiscal sanctions against states based on the AFDC quality control error rates.

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to discontinue student benefits for postsecondary students and take steps to ensure that the Department of Education will have sufficient financial resources to meet any increased demand for aid arising from discontinuance of these benefits.

  12. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress considered the continuance of the Emergency Assistance Program in the 97th Congress as part of TEFRA, but changes to the program were deleted from this legislation when it passed Congress.

    Matter: Congress should consider whether the Emergency Assistance Program should continue. If Congress determines that the program should continue, it should review the positions of HHS and the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, concerning the eligibility and the type of extent of emergencies covered. It should then, if necessary, amend the legislation to clearly indicate congressional intent.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed in September 1982.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to review all retroactive SSI payments of $2,000 or more.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to complete the analysis of the district office experiment with centralizing overpayment recovery work load and the need for a full-time overpayment specialist.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA revised its automatic determination policy in January 1982.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to change the computer program provision, so that termination will not automatically occur on any account that is, or drops below, $200 until after three demand notices are issued.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to fully implement the nine recommendations not fully implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to immediately refine its management information system to define the exact composition of the outstanding balance of unsettled accounts. This should include potential adjustment cases, accounts being recovered through installments, cases where recovery will be attempted from individuals no longer on the benefit rolls, and the length of time each overpayment has been outstanding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Through automated processes, SSA added 2.9 million personal SSN of auxiliary beneficiaries to MBR. SSA included, in the FY 1988 Legislative Proposals, a recommendation to require auxiliary SSN as a prerequisite for payment. A coordinate plan was developed by the SSA Office of Assessment to address other issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should monitor SSA efforts to determine from other existing social security records the social security numbers (SSN) for those dependent children missing their numbers, especially students, and record them in the payment records.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action was completed in February 1984.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should monitor SSA efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive program to obtain and use state and local data to compute benefits for all its income maintenance programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to compare SSN of all dependent children currently receiving benefits to eliminate duplicate payments or to correct instances where different dependents have the same recorded SSN.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to report to Congress the results of its review on obtaining aliens' overseas asset information from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the future application of this mechanism for reducing aliens' eligibility for SSI benefits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to adopt a stronger and more active management role in recovering SSI overpayments by establishing standards for timely processing of SSI overpayments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  11. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA stated that it could not install a quality control mechanism because it would not be cost-effective. SSA tested an alternate overpayment review system and found that it was not cost-effective.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to adopt a stronger and more active management role in recovering SSI overpayments by developing a quality control mechanism to ensure performance in accordance with SSA overpayment policies and procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should seek legislation to authorize offsetting overpayments against title II and other federal benefit-paying programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to adopt a stronger and more active management role in recovering SSI overpayments by developing, through use of the quality control mechanism, more useful and less subjective criteria to determine whether an overpaid recipient was with or without fault in causing the overpayments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  14. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA decided not to perform a nationwide review. According to SSA, such reviews are no longer necessary because field offices are now maintaining close liaison with Medicaid facilities, and agency procedures for obtaining timely notification of SSI recipient admission to Medicaid facilities will accomplish the recommendation's objectives.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to make a nationwide review to identify nursing homes failing to complete and return the reporting form when SSI recipients are admitted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  15. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is being addressed by the AFDC audit group as an open recommendation in report HRD-79-68 and should not be covered here.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to issue regulations establishing uniform requirements for states to return the federal portion of AFDC checks not cashed and establish a mechanism for ensuring that these credits are timely and accurate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should revise the regulations to establish uniform and comprehensive overpayment recovery policies in the AFDC program for all types of overpayments, including requirements for states to: (1) maintain information on the total number and amount of overpayments involved and their disposition, and (2) establish a mechanism for assessing the effectiveness of their overpayments recovery efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct that SSA help states establish an appropriate mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the adequacy and effectiveness of their recovery efforts and periodically review states' compliance with the requirements established in the regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  18. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA determined that payments to New York and Oregon were proper.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should disallow any claims for federal participation in the advance AFDC payments program of New York and Oregon and initiate appropriate efforts to recover the federal share of any of these advance payments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  19. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer valid because the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 discontinued social security student benefits for postsecondary education after 1985.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services should require that the Social Security/Basic Grant computer matching procedures be revised.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  20. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer valid because the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 discontinued social security student benefits for postsecondary education after 1985.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services should require that the Social Security/Basic Grant computer matching procedures be revised.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  21. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, should develop more stringent income criteria for judging the ability of a sponsor to support a visa applicant.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  22. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of State is not taking action because it believes that implemention of this recommendation would be a violation of the reunification of family concept inherent in immigration laws. Such action could not be justified on the basis that fewer newly arrived aliens are receiving SSI benefits.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, should develop more stringent income criteria for judging the ability of a sponsor to support a visa applicant.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  23. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA stated that, based on its prepayment review of all retroactive payments above $3,000, it decided against establishing goals because: (1) the volume of large payments is small; (2) the universe of all retroactive payments is small and goals would serve no purpose; and (3) a separate retroactive goal would duplicate the present SSI payment accuracy goal.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to establish goals for reducing retroactive payment errors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  24. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On November 9, 1981, HHS stated that, because GAO is making another review of payment termination efficiency in the states, it will provide assistance but not make a separate review.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine whether other states have similar problems in stopping AFDC payments to ineligibles, and if so, help those states to correct them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  25. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Based on a SSA survey of its regional offices, HHS reported that significant overpayment problems on SSI recipient admissions to nursing homes no longer exist as a result of agency actions which were based on a prior GAO recommendation. HHS plans no further action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration to have states establish procedures requiring those nursing homes to promptly report the admission of SSI recipients to the state Medicaid agencies, and require those agencies to promptly remit such information to SSA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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