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Social services: Social Security Benefit Coordination (2012-27)

Benefit offsets for related programs help reduce the potential for overlapping payments but pose administrative challenges.

Year Identified: 2012
Area Number: 27
Area Type: Fragmentation, Overlap & Duplication

1 Total Action(s)

Action 1
Partially Addressed

In response to prior recommendations, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has taken steps to explore the possibilities of sharing information with states and the workers' compensation insurance industry to identify persons who might be receiving workers' compensation benefits. While some information sharing has taken place, GAO continues to believe that additional opportunities exist to share information. While obtaining information from states is difficult, these efforts may help identify workers' compensation beneficiaries so that benefits can be appropriately and accurately offset.

Type
Executive Branch
Last Updated
August 31, 2021
Progress:

As GAO indicated in February 2012, additional opportunities exist for data sharing with states and the workers' compensation insurance industry to identify persons who might be receiving workers' compensation. While SSA has taken some steps to explore information sharing with states, the data SSA has on workers' compensation benefits are limited, and the agency is also now working to obtain federal workers' compensation data.

In January 2013, SSA stated that its SSA Access to State Records Online (SASRO) agreements with states outline conditions under which it is permitted access to query state records, which could provide it with information, such as unemployment and wage data, and limited information from workers' compensation agencies. While state participation as party to an agreement is voluntary, SSA officials said that at that time over 40 states/territories had signed SASRO agreements. However, SSA officials estimated that only 15 states/territories with SASRO agreements provided access to unemployment data and only 15 states provided access to workers' compensation data. While access to these data might help SSA appropriately and accurately offset benefits, SSA only has access to these data from a small number of states/territories and, at that time, was still trying to determine whether the information it is receiving is useful to applying benefit offsets.

In March 2014, SSA indicated that, after further evaluation, it determined that the workers' compensation information available in these few states is very limited and sometimes incorrect or unclear. Without this information, SSA is dependent solely on the disabled worker to report receipt of, or change to, the workers' compensation benefit payments. SSA indicated that it included a legislative proposal in the President's budget for fiscal years 2013-2017 that would require state and local governments and private insurers administering workers' compensation and public disability benefits to provide information on payments made to individuals.

In November 2016, SSA reported that progress remained largely unchanged as the data SSA has are limited and as of January 2020 no legislative action had been taken. However, SSA indicated that it was negotiating with the Department of Labor (DOL) to obtain federal workers' compensation payment information through a data exchange. While this will only provide workers' compensation data for federal workers, it will help identify some workers' compensation beneficiaries so that benefits can be appropriately and accurately offset.

As of December 2017, SSA indicated that the data exchange with DOL was moving forward, but that the agency's proposal for a system update to receive the Federal Employees' Compensation Act data from DOL was on hold while the agency waits for resources to become available.

As of May 2021, SSA indicated that it continues to work with DOL to establish a computer matching agreement and it has updated its Program Operations Manual System to put in place a process to provide technicians with more access to federal workers' compensation payment information once the matching agreement is in place, which will allow SSA to appropriately and accurately offset benefits for federal workers' compensation. SSA would still need information from the states in order to offset benefits for workers' compensation.

Implementing Entity:
Social Security Administration
GAO Contacts