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.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: SSA should get its SSI overpayment collection process functioning efficiently and uniformly before legislation is enacted authorizing SSA to collect SSI overpayments from funds due to recipients from other federal benefit-paying programs. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare should direct the Commissioner, SSA, to adopt a stronger and more active management role in recovering SSI overpayments by: (1) establishing standards for timely processing of SSI overpayments; (2) developing a quality control mechanism designed to identify needed corrective actions and needed changes in policy and procedures, and to develop solutions to inequities; (3) developing improved instructions and additional training in overpayment resolution for claims representatives; and (4) developing an automated notice to inform overpaid recipients when they have been overpaid, the cause of the overpayment, proposed agency action, and the recipient's appeal rights. The Secretary should also direct the Commissioner to develop more useful and less subjective criteria for claims representatives to use in determining whether an overpaid recipient was with or without fault in causing the overpayment.

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