Social Security Should Improve Its Collection of Overpayments to Supplemental Security Income Recipients

HRD-79-21: Published: Jan 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1979.

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Recovery or waiver by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of overpayments to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients continues to be a problem. Additional improvements are needed if SSA is to achieve uniformity and objectivity in resolving overpayments and reduce an unresolved backlog of over 1.2 million overpayments.

From January 1974 to September 1978, $27.9 billion was paid in SSI benefits. SSA identified 3.2 million instances of overpayments totalling about $1.5 billion. Of the $l.5 billion, about $443 million was waived; $295.8 million was collected; $148.8 million of collections were in process; recovery efforts on $147.7 million were suspended; incorrectly computed overpayments for about $5.9 million were adjusted; and the remaining $462.4 million had not been resolved. Efficient resolution of overpayments requires that they be quickly and uniformly processed to assure that the debts are promptly collected. SSA has not acted quickly or uniformly. SSA needs an automated overpayment notice at district offices to assure that an overpaid recipient is notified in a timely manner. A solution to collecting overpayments from former SSI recipients receiving other federal benefits would be to offset or adjust the other federal benefits at given rates until the debt is paid; however, SSA maintains that it has no legal authority to collect from benefits being paid to these recipients under other federal programs.

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