Social Security Administration Should Improve Its Recovery of Overpayments Made to Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Beneficiaries

HRD-79-31: Published: Jan 17, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 17, 1979.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) made, and will continue to make, overpayments to individuals who receive retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits. Most overpayments are made to beneficiaries who earn more than the allowable limit set by law and who, despite the overpayments, continue to be eligible for benefits. Thus, the overpaid amounts are recoverable through adjustment against continuing benefits. Conversely, individuals who receive an overpayment and are subsequently removed from benefit status before repayment occurs represent a very difficult recovery problem for SSA.

Recovery personnel at Social Security Program Service Centers attempting to recover overpayments are making questionable and, in many instances, erroneous decisions resulting in monetary losses to the government. This is occurring because the managerial personnel responsible are neither technically proficient in recovery matters nor providing necessary guidance to those attempting the actual recovery work. Moreover, recovery of overpayments is only a small part of the duties of SSA personnel at the district offices, and they do not consistently use the most effective recovery techniques. In addition, the SSA management information system does not sufficiently provide the type of information needed by managers to evaluate recovery efforts. Some SSA policies and procedures governing recovery are not being properly and consistently applied. Until recently, SSA headquarters management has been slow to react to its mounting overpayment and recovery problems, and the approach to recovery has lacked overall direction. As a result, various SSA operating divisions have undertaken studies on diverse aspects of recovery and have had little or no communication or coordination with other interested divisions.

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