Social Security Could Improve Its Management and Detection of Postentitlement Changes by Using Postadjudicative Appraisal Data

HRD-84-27: Published: Jan 20, 1984. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1984.

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GAO analyzed the timeliness with which people report to the Social Security Administration (SSA) events such as marriage, death, and cessation of school attendance, which could affect their social security benefits.

GAO found that most such events are reported promptly. However, it estimated that for 1981 about 7 percent of such events were not reported within 2 months of the event and that about $65 million in overpayments were made to such beneficiaries. GAO could not estimate how much of this overpayment will eventually be recovered because the SSA debt collection management system does not track collection of overpayments by event. Late notification of death caused about half of all the overpayments resulting from untimely reporting. Marriage notifications were most often 2 or more months late. Data on the frequency and effect of late reporting and the characteristics of late reporters could be useful to SSA. By using the data it already collects and other data from its enforcement efforts, SSA should be better able to: (1) assess the degree of compliance with its reporting requirements; (2) determine the type of events that are most often not reported; (3) determine the characteristics of beneficiaries who do not report in a timely manner; (4) determine the overpayment effects of untimely reporting; (5) decide what changes might be needed to quickly detect unreported postentitlement changes and better enforce beneficiary reporting requirements; and (6) monitor changes in the mix of late reporters and the amounts lost due to late reporting to help assess the future impact of any new outreach or detection efforts.

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