Social Security:

Need to Improve Postentitlement Service to the Public

HRD-93-21: Published: May 7, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined the amount of time it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA) to process requests for services from social security beneficiaries, which include replacing lost or stolen checks, converting spouses to survivors' status, and making address changes to checks.

GAO found that: (1) SSA receives 500,000 reports a year from beneficiaries claiming that they did not receive their monthly benefit checks; (2) when SSA processed claims for lost or stolen checks on a priority basis, 89 percent of the affected beneficiaries received replacement checks in less than 1 month; (3) when SSA followed normal processing procedures, beneficiaries received only 1 percent of all lost checks in less than 1 month; (4) SSA normally delays submitting the nonreceipt claims to Treasury to allow original checks time to clear the banking system; (5) SSA believes that if it reduced the 15-day delay in submitting nonreceipt claims to Treasury, the risk of losses from overpayment would be minimal; (6) in some cases, SSA can convert the currently entitled spouse's benefit to the survivor's benefit; (7) if the spouse is entitled to dual benefits, additional processing by SSA is required; (8) SSA received 4.5 million requests for changes of address during fiscal year 1991; and (9) generally, beneficiaries reporting address changes to SSA will have their next month's check addressed to the new location.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In an effort to improve the timeliness of the replacement of lost or stolen benefit checks, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should modify the present policy of waiting until mid-month before SSA acts on a beneficiary's claim of the nonreceipt of a current month's benefit check. SSA should submit these nonreceipt claims to Treasury as soon as feasible.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA implemented a change in the Title II nonreceipt process on October 26, 1993. Current month nonreceipt claims are forwarded to Treasury on the day accepted by SSA--no earlier than 3 days after the payment date--unless the beneficiary had a double check negation within the past 2 years.

    Recommendation: In an effort to improve the timeliness of awarding survivors' benefits to spouses of deceased beneficiaries, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should provide all currently entitled spouses having dual entitlement and eligible for reduced survivor benefits election forms as soon as possible in order to receive reduced survivor benefits.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Beginning October 1994, SSA field offices and teleservice centers will begin mailing election forms to spouses when reports of death are received by telephone. SSA recently revised the form previously used. As of late August 1994, SSA sent disseminated form format (teleservice centers will mass produce forms for field offices) and instructions to implement the change in procedures.

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