Millions Can Be Saved by Identifying Supplemental Security Income Recipients Owning Too Many Assets

HRD-81-4: Published: Feb 4, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1981.

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In fiscal year 1979, an estimated $125 million was overpaid to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who owned assets, such as bank accounts and real property, valued in excess of the limitations allowed for program eligibility. GAO assessed the adequacy of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) efforts to reduce problems causing these overpayments.

GAO found that an estimated $47 million was overpaid during fiscal year 1979 to bank account owners because claims representatives were unable to identify ownership when applicants and recipients responded incorrectly to bank account questions. SSA attempted to reduce the problem by implementing special verification procedures. However, the procedures used to identify bank account ownership to prevent or reduce overpayments have been only marginally successful. The current SSI interview questions and procedures do not provide enough emphasis on identifying real property ownership to combat the $20 million annual overpayment problem. SSA regional staffs have found that ownership can be better established by improved interviewing techniques, yet regional program officials have not adopted the suggested improvements. The current computerized information on resources owned by SSI applicants and recipients is insufficient for SSA to effectively manage and monitor changes in resource ownership and values for those presently on the payment rolls or to contact previously denied applicants who may now be eligible because of legislative and administrative changes to the resource criteria.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to assess the effect the resource disposition dollar limitations have on applicant eligibility. If the effect is significant, the Commissioner should prepare for HHS approval revised regulations which substantially raise or eliminate these limitations to ensure that Supplemental Security Income benefits are provided to those persons the program is intended to assist.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to initiate steps to have Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and recipients sign tax information consent forms and provide the signed forms to the Internal Revenue Service for purposes of obtaining Information Return Processing data needed to verify SSI income and resources records.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to place more emphasis on real property ownership as a cause of overpayments during training for claims representatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to incorporate a requirement into field office operating procedures that Supplemental Security Income applicants and recipients be informed that information they provide may be verified through third-party contacts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to incorporate into the proposed interview questionnaire form, now being developed, separate questions emphasizing real property ownership.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  6. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to develop and maintain detailed automated Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicant and recipient resource information that includes the types of resources owned and their dollar values. This information should be readily available to (1) claims representatives so that they can monitor changes in recipient resource ownership and values and (2) the appropriate headquarters component responsible for contacting previously denied applicants who may subsequently become eligible for SSI because of legislative and administrative changes to the resource criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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