Supplemental Security Income:

Long-Standing Problems Put Program at Risk for Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

T-HEHS-97-88: Published: Mar 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1997.

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Jane L. Ross
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GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and GAO's decision to designate the program one of its high-risk areas.

GAO noted that: (1) the SSI program has had significant problems in determining initial and continuing financial eligibility because of the agency's reliance on individuals' own reports of their income and resources and failure to thoroughly check this information; (2) moreover, the judgmental nature of SSA's disability determination process and SSA's past failure to adequately review SSI recipients to determine whether they remain disabled have also exposed the program to fraud, waste, and abuse; (3) SSA is at risk of paying some SSI recipients benefits for too long because it has not adequately addressed their special vocational rehabilitation needs or developed an agencywide strategy for helping recipients who can enter the workforce; (4) the Congress has recently made several changes that address program eligibility issues and increase the frequency of SSA's continuing eligibility reviews; (5) SSA has also begun addressing its program vulnerabilities and has made the prevention of fraud and abuse a part of its plan for rebuilding public confidence in the agency; (6) however, GAO's concerns about underlying SSI program vulnerabilities and the level of management attention devoted to these vulnerabilities continue; and (7) as part of GAO's high-risk work, it is continuing to evaluate the underlying causes of long-standing SSI problems and the actions necessary to address them.

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