Supplemental Security Income:

Incentive Payments Have Reduced Benefit Overpayments to Prisoners

HEHS-00-2: Published: Nov 22, 1999. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 1999.

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Cynthia Maher Fagnoni
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact incentive payment legislation for correctional facilities had on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, focusing on: (1) how many correctional facilities signed incentive payment agreements, how many benefit suspensions did SSA make, and what amount of overpayments did SSA identify and prevent at these facilities; (2) how many of the incentive payment agreements represented new reporting commitments that SSA did not have before the authorization of incentive payments, and what were the results at facilities that made these new commitments; and (3) what other benefits has the legislation produced.

GAO noted that: (1) since the legislation was passed, SSA has signed incentive payment agreements with 3,115 correctional facilities; (2) between the date each facility signed an incentive payment agreement and November 27, 1998, the most recent date for which GAO has comprehensive data, SSA made a total of 39,137 SSI benefit suspensions at these facilities; (3) by suspending benefits, SSA identified $32.1 million of potentially recoverable SSI overpayments that it had already made and prevented approximately $37.6 million in future erroneous SSI payments; (4) SSA made incentive payments of almost $10 million to facilities, as required by the incentive agreements; (5) as a result of the legislation, SSA now receives more prisoner information than before; (6) GAO's analysis showed that 210 of the 3,115 incentive agreements were new commitments, that is, 210 facilities had not agreed to provide inmate data to SSA before the incentive agreement legislation; (7) at the facilities that made new commitments, SSA made 4,597 suspensions, identified about $3.3 million in overpayments that it had made to inmates, and prevented future overpayments of about $3.6 million; (8) the legislation also produced other benefits; (9) SSA made 871 suspensions, identified $1.4 million of past overpayments, and prevented about $1.6 million of future overpayments in SSA's Old Age and Survivors Insurance program and Disability Insurance program; (10) moreover, other federal and state assistance programs, such as the Food Stamp program, now have access to this enhanced inmate information, which may help them improve the accuracy of their payments; (11) in addition, after signing the agreements, some correctional facilities began to report confinements more frequently and in an electronic format that SSA can process more efficiently, resulting in prevention of at least $2.7 million in future overpayments; and (12) SSA developed several new computer systems to facilitate operations, improve the control and monitoring of facility reporting and prisoner suspensions, and account for incentive payments.

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