Millions Can Be Saved by Identifying Supplemental Security Income Recipients Owning Too Many Assets

Gao ID: HRD-81-4 February 4, 1981

In fiscal year 1979, an estimated $125 million was overpaid to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who owned assets, such as bank accounts and real property, valued in excess of the limitations allowed for program eligibility. GAO assessed the adequacy of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) efforts to reduce problems causing these overpayments.

GAO found that an estimated $47 million was overpaid during fiscal year 1979 to bank account owners because claims representatives were unable to identify ownership when applicants and recipients responded incorrectly to bank account questions. SSA attempted to reduce the problem by implementing special verification procedures. However, the procedures used to identify bank account ownership to prevent or reduce overpayments have been only marginally successful. The current SSI interview questions and procedures do not provide enough emphasis on identifying real property ownership to combat the $20 million annual overpayment problem. SSA regional staffs have found that ownership can be better established by improved interviewing techniques, yet regional program officials have not adopted the suggested improvements. The current computerized information on resources owned by SSI applicants and recipients is insufficient for SSA to effectively manage and monitor changes in resource ownership and values for those presently on the payment rolls or to contact previously denied applicants who may now be eligible because of legislative and administrative changes to the resource criteria.


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