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Priority Open Recommendations: Social Security Administration

GAO-21-430PR Published: Jun 03, 2021. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 2021.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 4 priority open recommendations for the Social Security Administration as of May 2021.

For example, we recommended improving oversight of the "representative payees" who help vulnerable beneficiaries—people in nursing homes, for example—manage their benefits.

Since our previous letter in April 2020, SSA implemented 4 of our priority recommendations.

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Graphic that says, "GAO's Priority Open Recommendations" and includes the seal of the Social Security Administration.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified seven open priority recommendations for the Social Security Administration (SSA). Since then, SSA has implemented four of those recommendations by: (1) updating its system to ensure waivers for Disability Insurance overpayments over $1,000 are processed correctly; (2) taking steps to address Disability Insurance overpayments that result from the concurrent receipt of Federal Employees' Compensation Act benefits; (3) establishing an Enterprise Risk Management framework and council to address cyber risks in the context of other risks and their potential impact on SSA's mission; and (4) strengthening oversight of representative payees to help ensure they are managing beneficiary funds appropriately.

In May 2021, GAO identified one additional open priority recommendation for SSA, bringing the total number to four. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • ensuring program integrity; and
  • protecting vulnerable beneficiaries.

SSA's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-4040 or

Full Report

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BeneficiariesDisability insuranceDisability programsFederal assistance programsGovernment operationsHigh-risk issuesHigh-risk listImproper paymentsInternal controlsNursing homesOverpaymentsProgram integrityPublic affairsRisk assessmentSocial security benefitsStrategic planningSupplemental security incomeTaxpayers