Need for SSA To Assess Penalties Against SSI Recipients That Fail To Report Changes in Their Circumstances

HRD-78-118: Published: May 22, 1978. Publicly Released: May 22, 1978.

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Substantial overpayments have been made to recipients of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program because the recipients had not reported or improperly reported changes in their income, resources, or other circumstances. The integrity of the SSI program depends to a large degree on accurate and timely reporting of these changes. Steps have been taken to reduce the erroneous payments, including informing recipients of their reporting responsibilities, but more can be done to improve recipient reporting. SSA has also taken steps to obtain and use information on benefits paid to SSI recipients from sources other than the recipient. Although recipients are generally aware of their reporting responsibilities, over 50 percent of the recipients questioned who had indicated that their circumstances had changed had not reported the changes. In establishing the SSI program, Congress gave SSA authority to assess penalties against recipients who do not fulfill their reporting responsibilities; however, this authority has not been used. Implementation of the penalty provision could provide a viable mechanism for improving recipient compliance with reporting requirements, improving the accuracy of benefit payments, and reducing overpayments. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare should direct the Commissioner, SSA, to implement the penalty provision, including necessary programing of the SSI computer system to process penalties for untimely reporting and nonreporting of changes in recipient circumstances.

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