Social Security:

Information About the Accuracy of Earnings Records

HRD-91-89FS: Published: Apr 19, 1991. Publicly Released: May 22, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on studies concerning: (1) the accuracy of the earning records that the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains; and (2) whether certain workers are more likely to have errors in their earnings records than others.

GAO found that: (1) the chances of SSA recording a wage report to the wrong account, or in a different amount than reported, were very small; (2) a 1987 study of a nationwide sample of 1,744 persons who received their first retirement benefit check in June 1985 found that about 6.5 percent had one or more errors in their earnings records, and a 1989 payment accuracy study found a similar error rate; (3) an unpublished internal study of the SSA 1978 suspense file of uncredited earnings provided information about the types of workers who may be most prone to have an earnings record problem; (4) SSA did not credit almost 20 percent of the wage reports filed by businesses involved in agricultural production in 1978 to valid workers' social security accounts; and (5) the studies GAO reviewed had certain limitations in their ability to identify errors in the earnings records.

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