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Highlights

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two of the nation's largest cash benefits programs for people with disabilities: the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program, which provides benefits to workers with disabilities and their family members, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides income for individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources. In 2008, SSA provided about $142 billion in financial benefits for these two programs. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government also paid $250 to each SSA recipient, such as DI beneficiaries, SSI recipients, and old-age retirement beneficiaries. GAO was asked to (1) determine whether federal employees and commercial drivers and company owners may be improperly receiving disability benefits and (2) develop case study examples of individuals who fraudulently and/or improperly receive these benefits. To do this, GAO compared DI and SSI benefit data to civilian payroll records of certain federal agencies and carrier/driver records from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and 12 selected states. GAO also interviewed SSA disability beneficiaries and recipients.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Social Security Administration To enhance SSA's ability to detect and prevent fraudulent and improper payments in its disability programs, and to improve the agency's processes, the Commissioner of Social Security should evaluate the feasibility (including consideration of any costs and operational and system modifications) of incorporating the AERO process to identify individuals who have returned to work.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2014, SSA told us that it had tested using the AERO process to identify individuals who returned to work, as we recommended, with the effective completion of over 15,000 detected cases between October 2012 and October 2013. According to SSA, the agency is evaluating the results of the testing to determine the extent of improper payments prior to implementing the process.
Social Security Administration To enhance SSA's ability to detect and prevent fraudulent and improper payments in its disability programs, and to improve the agency's processes, the Commissioner of Social Security should evaluate the feasibility of periodically matching SSA disability beneficiaries and recipients to federal payroll data. Such matches would provide SSA with more timely data to help SSA systematically and more effectively identify federal employees who are likely to incur overpayments.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2014, SSA told us it had initiated a quarterly match of the employee records of the SSA Federal Personnel/Payroll System with Disability Income and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries/recipients to detect any unreported earnings in May 2011. According to SSA, the agency is not pursuing additional matches for general federal payroll data because it does not have a consolidated data source for other federal employees. SSA's actions should improve its ability to detect and prevent fraudulent and improper payments in its disability programs; therefore we are closing this recommendation as implemented.

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