Worker and Family Assistance:

Action Needed To Resolve Problem of Outstanding Supplemental Security Income Checks

HRD-81-58: Published: Mar 3, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1981.

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Several proposals before the 96th Congress would have placed a time limit on the negotiation of Federal Government checks issued monthly to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. However, none of the proposals were enacted. Under present legislation, these and other Government checks are payable without time limitations. GAO conducted a review designed to quantify the number and amount of SSI checks not cashed, determine why they were not cashed, and identify actions to alleviate check-cashing problems.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has done little to reduce the number of uncashed SSI checks or determine why this condition exists. The Department of the Treasury, in following up on a number of uncashed checks, determined that the status of checks not presented to it for reconciliation would have to be determined by SSA. By identifying these checks and checking their recipients, SSA could determine the status of these checks and identify some potential ineligible recipients and recipients who need check-cashing assistance. Such actions could also improve the accuracy of the Treasury's accounting records. While SSA has the authority to request lists of uncashed checks from the Treasury and to follow up and to take appropriate actions such as canceling checks, removing ineligible recipients from the rolls, or providing needed check-cashing assistance, it has not done so. The Treasury's suggested alternative to the legislative proposals that were before the 96th Congress would allow for appropriate credits to be made to SSA and States and would give SSA the information it needs to follow up on uncashed checks. However, this could cost SSA an estimated $9 million in additional administrative costs and would not automatically clear the checks from the Treasury's accounting records.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Matter: Congress should, upon receiving the Treasury cost data, determine which approach would be the most cost-effective method for managing and controlling these checks.

  2. Status: Closed

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

    Matter: Congress should direct Treasury to give the Social Security Administration information it needs to implement these recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should direct the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) to incorporate necessary changes into existing SSA check cancellation procedures to cover the additional requirements imposed by the recommendation above and ensure that its field personnel are aware of them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should prepare and provide to Congress detailed information concerning the costs it would incur under both methods discussed in this report for handling uncashed Supplemental Security Income checks.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  3. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should provide computerized information requested by the Social Security Administration on uncashed Supplemental Security Income checks.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  4. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to periodically request lists of uncashed Supplemental Security Income checks from the Treasury and use the lists to identify and request the Treasury to cancel checks that should be canceled, including those issued to recipients now deceased, and to identify ineligible recipients or those that need assistance in cashing checks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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