Better Case File Monitoring of the Workers' Compensation Offset Provision by the Social Security Administration Could Save Millions

HRD-83-90: Published: Sep 30, 1983. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1983.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Joseph F. Delfico
(202) 512-7215
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the losses that the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund incurs each year because DI payments to disabled workers are not being reduced as required by the workers' compensation offset provision of the Social Security Act. The DI trust fund is the nation's primary source of income replacement for disabled workers. Many DI recipients are also entitled to federal disability or workers' compensation benefits. These benefits can overlap, causing disabled workers to receive more in disability benefits than they were earning before they became disabled.

Although the offset provision saved the Social Security Administration (SSA) $168 million in fiscal year 1981, GAO estimated that claims that were not offset cost the trust fund about $43 million. GAO believes that many claims were not offset because SSA had no indication that the DI claimants had received other benefits or had claims pending. However, in other cases, SSA could have prevented the loss by acting on evidence in the case files. In applying the offset provision, SSA relies heavily on claimants' voluntary reports of compensation awards or changes in award amounts. SSA has acknowledged that this reliance has contributed significantly to overpayments and it has begun several activities designed to investigate claimants' failure to report benefits payments. SSA is making inquiries into data exchanges with state agencies, but it reports that serious obstacles remain to be overcome before that objective can be achieved. SSA plans to select a state to participate in a pilot program and to evaluate the results of the program to determine the potential of file-matching programs. GAO stated that SSA could reduce or eliminate lost offsets for federal employee cases by matching its files with the Department of Labor's files. Since the beginning of the GAO review, SSA has initiated several actions to reduce the number of offsets not imposed, and the SSA Office of Assessment is planning to make several recommendations to improve the processing of offset cases.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The first match with Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) files was run in June 1989. The results are expected to be reported in 1990. An ongoing matching operation is to be established if the results prove to be cost-effective. SSA also expects to do a match with the Longshore Program by the end of 1990. Given that 7 years have passed, GAO sees no outcome in the forseeable future.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with the Secretary of Labor to establish regular matches between the DI file and Labor's workers' compensation files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The plan is being developed to match and review the FECA file. The first match with FECA was run in June 1989. The results are expected to be reported in 1990. SSA also expects to do a match with the Longshore Program by the end of 1990. Given that 7 years have passed so far, GAO sees no outcome in the forseeable future.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services, to facilitate the matches, should explore with the Secretary of Labor the feasibility of including additional identifiers in Labor's computer files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 15, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Jul 8, 2016

Mar 14, 2016

Mar 10, 2016

Feb 23, 2016

Nov 9, 2015

Sep 16, 2015

Jun 15, 2015

Jun 3, 2015

Looking for more? Browse all our products here