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.

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