Erroneous Supplemental Security Income Payments Result From Problems in Processing Changes in Recipients' Circumstances

HRD-79-4: Published: Feb 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 16, 1979.

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Eligibility for federally administered Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is based on a continuing need for financial assistance. Once eligibility for assistance is established, recipients must report changes in income, resources, or other circumstances that could affect the recipient's benefit payment amount or continued eligibility. If any of this information is not promptly and correctly processed, payment errors will occur. These changes are referred to as posteligibility changes.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates, based on its quality assurance data, that it erroneously overpaid about $1 billion and underpaid about $262 million in SSI benefits from January 1976 through March 1978. Most of the overpayments occurred were attributed to problems that SSA has experienced in processing reported changes. Most of the local offices' problems result from lost records and a lack of adequate processing procedures, controls, and timeframes. Controls needed to ensure that changes are either posted to Supplemental Security Records or rejected and later corrected by the field offices have not been established.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, SSA, should improve the processing of changes to recipient payments by establishing procedures, goals, and a system for controlling, processing, and monitoring posteligibility changes; developing pending files for controlling posteligibility changes that are not monitored through the District Office Work Load Report; establishing procedures to ensure that posteligibility information received is processed before it is filed; insuring that offices retain and dispose of documents in compliance with the SSA record retention and disposal schedule; requesting aid to develop an effective records management program; and assessing the records management program to determine compliance with the Federal Records Act. He should establish appropriate controls to minimize problems associated with processing posteligibility changes and provide added assurance that prompt, effective action is taken by: initiating controls in the computer system to ensure field offices that all posteligibility changes transmitted by them are either posted to the record or rejected; establishing controls over rejects so that the system can notify field offices when information in reject messages has not been corrected; evaluating the alert system to ensure its effectiveness; reemphasizing to field offices the need to process rejects and alerts; and monitoring the field offices to ensure that rejects and alerts are promptly and effectively processed.

    Agency Affected:


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