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United States General Accounting Office: 


Before the Subcommittee on Human Resources, Committee on Ways and Means,
House of Representatives: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:00 a.m., EDT: 
Thursday July 25, 2002: 

Supplemental Security Income: 

Status of Efforts to Improve Overpayment Detection and Recovery: 

Statement of Robert E. Robertson, Director: 
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Supplemental Security 
Income (SSI) program. The Social Security Administration (SSA) 
administers the SSI program, which is the nation’s largest cash 
assistance program for the poor. Last year, SSI provided $33 billion in 
benefits to 6.8 million aged, blind, and disabled persons. Benefit 
eligibility and payment amounts for the SSI population are determined 
by complex and often difficult to verify financial factors such as an 
individual’s income, resource levels, and living arrangements. 
Individual financial circumstances also often change, requiring staff 
to frequently reassess recipients’ continuing eligibility for benefits. 
Thus, the SSI program tends to be difficult and labor intensive to 
administer. These factors also make the SSI program vulnerable to 
overpayments. In 2001, outstanding SSI debt and newly detected 
overpayments totaled $4.7 billion. We designated SSI a high-risk program
in 1997 after several years of reporting on specific instances of abuse 
and mismanagement, including poor overpayment detection and recovery
practices. The following year we issued a report with recommendations
for improving SSI operations. [Footnote 1] 

My testimony today focuses on our current review of actions taken by SSA
over the last several years to improve its overpayment deterrence and
detection capabilities as well as its ability to recover overpayments 
once they occur. To examine these issues, we reviewed SSI performance 
data and various internal and external reports on SSI management and
operations. We also conducted more than 175 interviews with SSA
managers and staff at its headquarters in Baltimore and in its 
Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Atlanta regions and with managers and 
staff from state Disability Determination Services. During our meetings 
with management and staff, we documented their views on the priority 
SSA places on improving SSI program integrity, and verified policy and 
procedural changes that have been made in operations. We plan to issue 
our final report in September 2002. 

In summary, SSA has taken many actions over the last several years to
strengthen SSI program integrity. For example, to better deter and 
detect overpayments, the agency obtained legislative authority to use 
additional tools to verify recipients’ financial eligibility for 
benefits; enhanced its processes for monitoring and holding staff 
accountable for completing assigned SSI workloads; and improved its use 
of automation to strengthen its overpayment detection capabilities. 
However, because a number of initiatives are still in the planning or 
early implementation stages, it is too soon to assess their ultimate 
impact on SSI payment accuracy. Further, there are vulnerabilities that 
SSA has yet to address, such as excessively complex program rules for 
determining recipient living arrangements and underused penalty 
authorities for persons who fail to report information affecting their 
benefits. In addition to improving its overpayment deterrence and 
detection capabilities, SSA has also made recovery of overpaid benefits 
a higher priority. For example, SSA now seizes the tax refunds of 
individuals with unresolved SSI debt and recently began more aggressive 
actions to recover overpayments from former SSI recipients by reducing 
their Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Other 
potentially effective recovery initiatives, such as wage garnishment and
referral of debtors to collection agencies, remain unimplemented. 
Further, at a time when SSA has enhanced its debt recovery capability, 
its current overpayment waiver policies and practices may be causing 
SSA to unnecessarily forego the collection of millions of dollars in 
overpaid benefits annually. 


The SSI program provides eligible aged, blind, or disabled persons with
monthly cash payments to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and 
shelter. State Disability Determination Services determine whether SSI 
applicants are medically disabled, and SSA field office staff determine 
whether applicants meet the program’s nonmedical (age and financial) 
eligibility requirements. To be eligible for SSI in 2002, persons may 
not have income greater than $545 per month ($817 for a couple) or 
resources worth more than $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple). When applying 
for SSI, persons must report information about their income, financial 
resources and living arrangements that affect their eligibility. 
Similarly, once approved, recipients must report changes to these 
factors in a timely manner. To a significant extent, SSA depends on 
program applicants and recipients to report changes in their medical or 
financial circumstances that may affect eligibility. To verify this 
information, SSA generally uses computer matching to compare SSI 
payment records with similar information contained in other federal and 
state government agencies’ records. To determine whether recipients 
remain financially eligible for SSI benefits, SSA also conducts 
periodic redetermination reviews to verify eligibility factors such as 
income, resources and living arrangements. Recipients are reviewed at 
least every 6 years, but reviews may be more frequent if SSA determines 
that changes in eligibility are likely. 

In general, the SSI program is difficult and costly to administer 
because even small changes in monthly income, available resources, or 
living arrangements can affect benefit amounts and eligibility. 
Complicated policies and procedures determine how to treat various 
types of income, resources, and support that a recipient may receive. 
SSA must constantly monitor these situations to ensure benefit payments 
are accurate. After reviewing work spanning more than a decade, we 
designated SSI a high-risk program in 1997 and initiated work to 
document the underlying causes of long-standing problems and their 
impact on program integrity. In 1998, we reported on a variety of 
management issues related to the deterrence, detection, and recovery of 
SSI overpayments. Over the last several years, we also issued a number 
of reports and testimonies documenting SSA’s progress in addressing 
these issues. 

Overpayment Prevention and Detection Are Receiving More Emphasis, But 
Some Weaknesses Remain: 

Over the last several years, SSA has demonstrated a stronger management
commitment to SSI program integrity issues, and today SSA has a much
improved capability to verify program eligibility and detect payment 
errors than it did several years ago. However, weaknesses remain. SSA 
has made limited progress toward simplifying complex program rules that
contribute to payment errors and is not fully utilizing several 
overpayment prevention tools, such as penalties and the suspension of 
benefits for recipients who fail to report eligibility information as 

Management Has Heightened Attention to SSI Program Integrity: 

SSA issued a report in 1998 outlining its strategy for addressing SSI
program integrity problems and submitted proposals to Congress
requesting new authorities and tools to implement its strategy. The 
Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 gave SSA new authority to deter 
fraudulent or abusive actions, better detect changes in recipient 
income and financial resources, and improve its ability to recover 
overpayments. Of particular note is a provision in the act that 
strengthened SSA’s authority to obtain applicant resource information 
from banks and other financial institutions, since unreported financial 
resources are the second largest source of SSI overpayments. SSA also 
sought and received legislative authority to impose a period of benefit 
ineligibility ranging from 6 to 24 months for individuals who knowingly 
misrepresent facts. 

In addition to seeking and obtaining new legislative authority, SSA also
began requiring its field offices to complete 99 percent of their 
assigned financial redetermination reviews and other cases where 
computer matching identified a potential overpayment situation caused by
unreported wages, changes in living arrangements, or other factors. To
further increase staff attention to program integrity issues, SSA also
revised its work measurement system—used for estimating resource
needs, gauging productivity, and justifying staffing levels—to include 
staff time spent developing information for referrals of potentially 
fraudulent cases to its Office of Inspector General (OIG). Consistent 
with this new emphasis, the OIG also increased the level of resources 
and staff devoted to investigating SSI fraud and abuse, in order to 
detect, and prevent, overpayments earlier in the disability 
determination process. The OIG reported that its investigative teams 
saved almost $53 million in fiscal year 2001 in improper benefit 
payments by providing information that led to denial of a claim or the 
cessation of benefits. 

Further, in a June 2002 SSI corrective action plan, SSA reaffirmed its
commitment to taking actions to facilitate the removal of the SSI 
program from our high-risk list. [Footnote 2] To ensure effective 
implementation of this plan, SSA has assigned senior managers 
responsibility for overseeing additional planned initiatives, which 
include piloting new quality assurance systems, testing whether 
touchtone telephone technology can improve the reporting of wages, and 
using credit bureau data and public databases to better detect 
underreported income and unreported resources (automobiles and real 
property). To assist field staff in verifying the identity of 
recipients, SSA is also exploring the feasibility of requiring new SSI 
claimants to be photographed as a condition of receiving benefits. 

SSA Has Improved Its Ability to Detect Payment Errors: 

SSA has made several automation improvements over the last several
years to help field managers and staff control overpayments. Last year, 
the agency distributed software nationwide that automatically scans 
multiple internal and external databases containing recipient financial 
and employment information and identifies potential changes in income 
and resources. This examination of financial data occurs automatically
whenever a recipient’s Social Security number (SSN) is entered into the
system. SSA also made systems enhancements to better identify newly 
entitled recipients with unresolved overpayments from a prior SSI 
coverage period. Now, the process of detecting overpayments from a prior
eligibility period and updating recipient records occurs automatically.
Thus, a substantial amount of outstanding overpayments that SSA might
not have detected under prior processes is now subject to collection
action. In fact, the monthly amount of outstanding overpayments
transferred to current records has increased on average by nearly 200
percent, from $12.9 million a month in 1999 to more than $36 million per
month in 2002. 

In addition to systems and software upgrades, SSA now uses more timely
and comprehensive data to identify information that can affect SSI
eligibility and benefit amounts. In accordance with our prior report
recommendation, SSA obtained access to the Office of Child Support
Enforcement’s National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), which is a
comprehensive source of unemployment insurance and wage and new
hires data for the nation. [Footnote 3] In January 2001, SSA field 
staff received access to NDNH for use in verifying applicant 
eligibility during the initial claims process. Recently, SSA also began 
requiring staff to use NDNH as a post-eligibility tool for verifying 
current recipients’ continuing eligibility. With NDNH, SSA field staff 
now have access to more comprehensive and timely employment and wage 
information essential to verifying factors affecting SSI eligibility. 
SSA has estimated that using NDNH will result in about $200 million in 
overpayment preventions and recoveries per year. 

SSA has also enhanced existing computer data matches to better verify
continuing financial eligibility. For example, SSA now matches SSI
recipient SSNs against its master earnings record semiannually. 
[Footnote 4] In 2001, SSA flagged over 206,000 cases for investigation 
of unreported earnings, a three-fold increase over 1997 levels. To 
better identify individuals receiving income from unemployment 
insurance benefits, quarterly data matches have also replaced annual 
matches. Accordingly, the number of unemployment insurance detections 
has increased from 10,400 in 1997 to 19,000 last year. Further, SSA’s 
ability to detect nursing home admissions, which can affect SSI 
benefits, has improved. [Footnote 5] SSA now conducts monthly matches 
with all states, and the number of overpayment detections related
to nursing home admissions has increased substantially from 2,700 in 
1997 to more than 75,000 in 2001. SSA’s ability to detect recipients 
residing in prisons has also improved. Over the past several years, SSA 
has established agreements with prisons that house 99 percent of the 
inmate population, and last year it reported suspending benefits to 
54,000 prisoners. [Footnote 6] Lastly, SSA has increased the frequency 
with which it matches recipient SSNs against tax records and other data 
essential to identify any unreported interest, income, dividends, and 
pension income individuals may be receiving. These matching efforts 
have also resulted in thousands of additional overpayment detections 
over the last few years. 

To obtain more current information on the income and resources of SSI
recipients, SSA has also increased its use of on-line access to various 
state program data, such as unemployment insurance and workers’
compensation. As a tool for verifying SSI eligibility, direct on-line
connections are generally more effective than using periodic computer
matches, because the information is more timely. Thus, SSA staff can
quickly identify potential disqualifying income or resources at the 
time of application and before overpayments occur. In many instances, 
this allows the agency to avoid having to go through the difficult and 
often unsuccessful task of recovering overpaid SSI benefits. Field 
staff can directly query various state records to quickly identify 
workers compensation, unemployment insurance, or other state benefits
individuals may be receiving. As of January 2002, SSA had access to 73
agencies in 42 states, as compared with 43 agencies in 26 states in 

Finally, to further strengthen program integrity, SSA took steps to 
improve its SSI financial redetermination review process. It increased 
the number of annual reviews from 1.8 million in fiscal year 1997 to 
2.4 million in fiscal year 2001 and substantially increased the number 
of reviews conducted through personal contact with recipients, from 
237,000 in 1997 to almost 700,000 in fiscal year 2002. SSA also refined 
its profiling methodology in 1998 to better target recipients that are 
most likely to have payment errors. SSA’s data show that estimated 
overpayment benefits—amounts detected and future amounts 
prevented—increased by $99 million over the prior year. Agency 
officials indicated that limited resources would affect SSA’s ability 
to do more reviews and still meet other agency priorities. In June
2002, SSA informed us that the Commissioner of SSA recently decided to 
make an additional $21 million available to increase the number of
redeterminations this year. 

Despite its increased emphasis on overpayment detection and deterrence,
SSA is not meeting its payment accuracy goals. In 1998, SSA pledged to
increase its SSI overpayment accuracy rate from 93.5 percent to 96 
percent by fiscal year 2002; however, the latest payment accuracy rate 
is 93.6 percent, and SSA does not anticipate achieving the 96 percent 
target until 2005. Various factors may account for SSA’s inability to 
achieve its SSI accuracy goals, including the fact that key initiatives 
that might improve SSI overpayment accuracy have only recently begun. 
For example, field offices started to access NDNH wage data in 2001. 
This could eventually help address the number one source of 
overpayments—unreported wages, which in fiscal year 2000 accounted for 
$477 million in overpayments, or about 22 percent of overpayment 
errors. Further, SSA’s data show that unreported financial resources, 
such as bank accounts, are the second largest source of SSI 
overpayments. Last year, overpayments attributable to this category 
totaled about $394 million, or 18 percent of all overpayments detected. 
SSA now has enhanced authority to obtain applicant resource information 
from financial institutions and plans to implement a pilot program 
later this year. Thus, when fully implemented, this tool may also help 
improve the SSI payment accuracy rate. 

Limited Progress Made in Simplifying Complex Program Rules: 

SSA has made only limited progress toward addressing excessively 
complex rules for assessing recipients’ living arrangements, which have
been a significant and long-standing source of payment errors. SSA staff
must apply a complex set of policies to document an individual’s living
arrangements and the value of in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) 
[Footnote 7] being received, which are essential to determining benefit 
amounts. Details such as usable cooking and food storage facilities 
with separate temperature controls, availability of bathing services, 
and whether a shelter is publicly operated can affect benefits. These 
benefit determination policies depend heavily on recipients to 
accurately report whether they live alone or with others; the 
relationships involved; the extent to which rent, food, utilities, and 
other household expenses are shared; and exactly what portion of those 
expenses an individual pays. 

Over the life of the SSI program, these policies have become 
increasingly complex as a result of new legislation, court decisions, 
and SSA’s own efforts to achieve benefit equity for all recipients. The 
complexity of SSI program rules pertaining to living arrangements, ISM, 
and other areas of benefit determination is reflected in the program’s 
administrative costs. In fiscal year 2001, SSI benefit payments 
represented about 6 percent of benefits paid under all SSA-administered 
programs, [Footnote 8] but the SSI program accounted for 31 percent of 
the agency’s administrative expenses. 

Although SSA has examined various options for simplifying rules 
concerning living arrangements and ISM over the last several years, it 
has yet to take action to implement a cost-effective strategy for 
change. During our recent fieldwork, staff and managers continued to 
cite program complexity as a problem leading to payment errors, program 
abuse, and excessive administrative burdens. In addition, overpayments 
associated with living arrangements and ISM remain among the leading 
causes of overpayments after unreported wages and resources, 
respectively. SSA’s lack of progress in addressing program 
simplification issues may limit its overall effectiveness at reducing 
payment errors and achieving its long-range 96 percent payment accuracy 
goal. SSA’s fiscal year 2000 payment accuracy report noted that it 
would be difficult to achieve SSI accuracy goals without some policy 
simplification initiatives. In its recently issued SSI Corrective 
Action Plan, SSA stated that within the next several years it
plans to conduct analyses of alternative program simplification options
beyond those already assessed. 

Administrative Penalties and Sanctions Remain Underutilized: 

Our work shows that administrative penalties and sanctions remain
underutilized in the SSI program. Under the law, SSA may impose
administrative penalties on recipients who do not file timely reports 
about factors or events that can lead to reductions in benefits—changes 
in wages, resources, living arrangements, and other support being 
received. Penalty amounts are $25 for a first occurrence, $50 for a 
second occurrence, and $100 for the third and subsequent occurrences. 
The penalties are meant to encourage recipients to file accurate and 
timely reports of information so that SSA can adjust its records to 
correctly pay benefits. The Foster Care Independence Act also gave SSA 
authority to impose benefit sanctions on persons who make 
representations of material facts that they knew, or should have known, 
were false or misleading. In such circumstances, SSA may suspend 
benefits for 6 months for the initial violation, 12 months for the 
second violation, and 24 months for subsequent violations. SSA issued 
interim regulations to implement these sanction provisions in July 

Currently, however, staff rarely use penalties to encourage recipient
compliance with reporting policies. SSA data show that, over the last
several years, the failure of recipients to report key information 
accounted for 71 to 76 percent of overpayment errors and that these 
errors involved about 1 million recipients annually. Based on SSA 
records, we estimate that at most about 3,500 recipients were penalized 
for reporting failures in fiscal year 2001. SSA staff we interviewed 
cited a number of obstacles or impediments to imposing penalties, as 
noted in our 1998 report, [Footnote 9] such as: (1) penalty amounts are 
too low to be effective; (2) imposition of penalties is too 
administratively burdensome; and (3) SSA management does not encourage 
the use of penalties. Although SSA has issued guidance to field office 
staff emphasizing the importance of assessing penalties, this action
alone does not sufficiently address the obstacles cited by SSA staff. 

SSA’s administrative sanction authority also remains rarely used. SSA 
data indicate that, between June 2000 and February 2002, SSA field 
office staff referred about 3,000 SSI cases to the OIG because of 
concerns about fraudulent activity. In most instances, the OIG returned 
the referred cases to the field office because they did not meet 
prosecutorial requirements, such as high amounts of benefits 
erroneously paid. Despite the large number of cases where staff 
believed fraud and abuse might be occurring, as of January 2002, field 
staff had actually imposed sanctions in only 21 SSI cases. Our 
interviews with field staff identified insufficient awareness of the 
new sanction authority and some confusion about when to impose 
sanctions. In one region, for example, staff and managers told us that 
they often referred cases to the OIG when fraud was suspected, but that 
it had not occurred to them that these cases could be considered for 
benefit sanctions if the OIG did not pursue investigation and 

Overpayment Recovery Improved, But Other Actions Could Enhance Program 

In our prior work, we reported that SSA had historically placed
insufficient emphasis on recovering SSI overpayments. Over the past
several years, SSA has been working to implement new legislative
provisions to improve the recovery of overpayments. However, a number
of key initiatives are still in the early planning or implementation 
stages, and it is too soon to gauge what effect they will have on SSI 
collections. Moreover, we are also concerned that SSA’s current waiver 
policies and practices may be preventing the collection of millions of 
dollars in outstanding debt. 

Overpayment Recovery Is Receiving Enhanced Emphasis, But Some Key 
Initiatives Are Pending: 

In 1998, SSA began seizing the tax refunds from former SSI recipients 
with outstanding overpayments. SSA reported that this initiative has 
yielded $221 million in additional overpayment recoveries at the end of 
calendar year 2001. In 2002, SSA also began recovering SSI overpayments 
by reducing the Social Security retirement and disability benefits of 
former recipients without first obtaining their consent. [Footnote 10] 
SSA expects that this initiative will produce about $115 million in 
additional overpayment collections over the next several years. SSA 
also recently began reporting former recipients with outstanding debts 
to credit bureaus and to the Department of the Treasury. Credit bureau 
referrals are intended to encourage individuals to voluntarily begin 
repaying their outstanding debts. The referrals to Treasury will 
provide SSA with an opportunity to seize other federal benefit payments 
individuals may be receiving. 

While overpayment recovery practices have been strengthened, SSA has
not yet implemented some key recovery initiatives that have been
available to the agency for several years. Although regulations have 
been drafted, SSA has not yet implemented administrative wage 
garnishment, which was authorized in the Debt Collection Improvement 
Act of 1996. In addition, SSA has not implemented several provisions in 
the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. These provisions allow SSA to 
offset federal salaries of former recipients, use collection agencies 
to recover overpayments, and levy interest on outstanding debt. 
According to SSA, draft regulations for several of these initiatives 
are being reviewed internally. SSA officials said that they could not 
estimate when these additional recovery tools will be fully 

SSI Overpayment Waivers Have Greatly Increased: 

Our work showed that SSI overpayment waivers have increased 
significantly over the last decade and that current waiver policies and
practices may cause SSA to unnecessarily forego millions of dollars in
additional overpayment recoveries annually. 

Waivers are requests by current and former SSI recipients for relief 
from the obligation to repay SSI benefits to which they were not 
entitled. Under the law, SSA field staff may waive an SSI overpayment 
when the recipient is without fault and the collection of the 
overpayment either defeats the purpose of the program, is against 
equity and good conscience, or impedes effective and efficient 
administration of the program. 

To be deemed without fault, and thus eligible for a waiver, recipients 
are expected to have exercised good faith in reporting information to 
prevent overpayments. If SSA determines a person is without fault in 
causing the overpayment, it then must determine if one of the other 
three requirements also exists to grant a waiver. Specifically, SSA 
staff must determine whether denying a waiver request and recovering the
overpayment would defeat the purpose of the program because the
affected individual needs all of his/her current income to meet ordinary
and necessary living expenses. To determine whether a waiver denial in
some instances would be against equity and good conscience, SSA staff
must decide if an individual incurred additional expenses in relying on 
the benefit, and thus requiring repayment would affect his/her economic
condition. Finally, SSA may grant a waiver when recovery of an 
overpayment may impede the effective or efficient administration of the
program—for example, when the overpayment amount is equal to or less
than the average administrative cost of recovering an overpayment, which
SSA currently estimates to be $500. Thus, field staff we interviewed
generally automatically waive overpayments of $500 or less. 

In December 1993, SSA markedly increased the threshold for automatic
SSI overpayment waivers from $100 to $500. Officials told us that this
change was based on an internal study of administrative costs related to
investigating and processing waiver requests for SSA’s Title II 
disability and retirement programs, but not on SSI waivers directly. 
They were unable to locate the study for our review and evaluation. 
While staff and managers had varying opinions regarding the time and 
administrative costs associated with denying waiver requests, they also 
acknowledged that numerous recent automation upgrades may be cause for 
reexamining the current $500 waiver threshold. 

Our analysis of waiver data indicated that since the automatic waiver
threshold was changed, the amount of SSI overpayments waived increased
400 percent, from $32 million in fiscal year 1993 to $161 million in 
fiscal year 2001. This increase has significantly outpaced the growth 
in both the number of SSI recipients served and total annual benefits 
paid, which increased by 12 and 35 percent respectively during this 
same period. Furthermore, the ratio of waived overpayments to total SSI 
collections has also increased. In fiscal year 1993, SSA waived 
overpayments were equivalent to about 13 percent of its SSI 
collections. By 1995, waiver amounts more than doubled, to $66 million, 
and were equivalent to about 20 percent of SSI collections for that 
year. By fiscal year 2001, SSI waivers represented nearly 23 percent of 
SSI collections. 

While not conclusive, the data indicate that liberalization of the SSI 
waiver threshold may be a factor in the increase in waived 
overpayments. SSA has not studied the impact of the increased 
threshold. However, officials believe that the trend in waived SSI 
overpayments is more likely due to annual increases in the number of 
periodic reviews of recipients' medical eligibility. These reviews have 
resulted in an increase in benefit terminations and subsequent 
recipient appeals. During the appeals process, recipients have the 
right to request that their benefits be continued. Those who lose their 
appeal can then request a waiver of any overpayments that occurred 
during the appeal period. SSA will usually grant these requests under 
its current waiver policies. 

Another factor affecting trends in waivers may be staff application of
waiver policies and procedures. Although SSA has developed guidance to
assist field staff in deciding whether to deny or grant waivers, we 
found that field staff have considerable leeway to grant waivers based 
on an individual’s claim that he or she reported information to SSA 
that would have prevented an overpayment. In addition, waivers granted 
for amounts of less than $2,000 are not subject to second-party review, 
while another employee in the office—not necessarily a supervisor—must 
review those above $2,000. During our field visits, we also identified 
variation among staff in their understanding of how waiver decisions 
should be processed, including the extent to which they receive 
supervisory review and approval. In some offices, review was often 
minimal or nonexistent regardless of the waiver amount, while other 
offices required stricter peer or supervisory review. In 1999, SSA’s 
OIG reported that the complex and subjective nature of SSA’s Title II 
waiver process, as well as clerical errors and misapplication of 
policies by staff, resulted in SSA’s incorrectly waiving overpayments 
in 9 percent of 26,000 cases it reviewed. The report also noted that 50 
percent of the waivers reviewed were unsupported and that the OIG could 
not make a judgment as to the appropriateness of the decision. While 
the OIG only examined waivers under the Title II programs and for 
amounts over $500, the criteria for granting SSI waivers are generally 
the same. Thus, we are concerned that similar problems with the 
application of waiver policies could be occurring in the SSI program. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I will be happy to
respond to any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee may

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For information regarding this testimony, please contact Robert E.
Robertson, Director, or Dan Bertoni, Assistant Director, Education,
Workforce, and Income Security at (202) 512-7215. Individuals making
contributions to this testimony include Barbara Alsip, Gerard Grant,
William Staab, Vanessa Taylor, and Mark Trapani. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Social Security Administration: Agency Must Position Itself Now to Meet
Challenges. GAO-02-289T. Washington, D.C.: May 2, 2002. 

Social Security Administration: Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and
Addressing Major Management Challenges. GAO-01-778. Washington, D.C.: 
June 15, 2001. 

High Risk Series: An Update. GAO-01-263. Washington, D.C.: January 

Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Social Security 
Administration. GAO-01-261. Washington, D.C.: January 2001. 

Supplemental Security Income: Additional Actions Needed to Reduce 
Program Vulnerability to Fraud and Abuse. GAO/HEHS-99-151. Washington, 
D.C.: September 15, 1999. 

Supplemental Security Income: Long–Standing Issues Require More Active 
Management and Program Oversight. GAO/T-HEHS-99-51. Washington, D.C.: 
February 3, 1999. 

Social Security Administration: Major Management Challenges and Program 
Risks. GAO/OCG-99-20. Washington, D.C.: January 1999. 

Supplemental Security Income: Action Needed on Long-Standing Problems 
Affecting Program Integrity. GAO/HEHS-98-158. Washington, D.C.: 
September 14, 1998. 

High Risk Program: Information on Selected High-Risk Areas. GAO/HR-97-
30. Washington, D.C.: May 1997. 

High Risk Series: An Overview. GAO/HR-97-1. Washington, D.C.: February 

[End of section] 


[1] U. S. General Accounting Office, Supplemental Security Income: 
Action Needed on Long-Standing Problems Affecting Program Integrity, 
GAO/HEHS-98-158 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 14, 1998) 

[2] Social Security Administration, SSI Corrective Action Plan—Removing 
SSI From GAO’s “High-Risk” List, June 2002. 

[3] See U.S. General Accounting Office, Supplemental Security Income: 
Opportunities Exist for Improving Payment Accuracy, GAO/HEHS-98-75 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 27, 1998. 

[4] Prior to 1998, SSA conducted these computer matches annually. 

[5] Generally, SSI recipients residing in a nursing home for more than 
1 month receive only $30 in SSI benefits per month. 

[6] Recipients in correctional facilities for more than 30 days are 
ineligible for benefits. 

[7] ISM refers to the noncash income available to a recipient in the 
form of food, clothing, or shelter. The combination of ISM and cash 
income available to an applicant or recipient can either reduce or 
possibly preclude the receipt of SSI benefits. 

[8] SSA also administers the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability 
Insurance Programs under Title II of the Social Security Act. 

[9] GAO/HEHS-98-158. 

[10] Until 1998, SSA could only reduce these benefits with the consent 
of the former recipient. 

[End of section] 

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