Improvements Needed To Insure the Accuracy of Supplemental Security Income Retroactive Payments

HRD-79-26: Published: Dec 11, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1978.

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During fiscal year (FY) 1977, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued about 1.8 million retroactive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments totalling about $505 million. An estimated 462,195 recipients of these retroactive benefits were overpaid about $75 million, and an estimated 206,825 were underpaid about $6 million. About 37 percent of FY retroactive checks were in error, twice the error rate for regular monthly checks. Most of the errors occurred because SSA did not obtain accurate information affecting the claimant's eligibility or the amount of his/her payment, generally because it was unaware of changes in the claimant's circumstances. Since August 1977, SSA has implemented two measures with potential for reducing errors; one is a modification of a priority redetermination procedure and the other involves a special prepayment review of retroactive payments of $5,000 or more. These actions should be expanded to cover a greater number of payments because of the high error rates for retroactive payments of $1,000 or more and the low percentage of overpayments recovered by SSA. The Commissioner of SSA should be directed to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of expanding the special review group effort to include more retroactive payment cases, include analyses of errors attributed to retroactive payments in the ongoing Quality Assurance Office review, establish goals for reducing the errors, and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of expanding the number of priority redeterminations being made before large retroactive checks are issued.

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