WASHINGTON – More than 77,000 recipients of Social Security payments for the disabled or elderly may have been overpaid a total of $380 million because their cases have not been reviewed in more than a decade, federal investigators estimate in a report released this week.
An estimated 1.1 million recipients of Supplemental Security Income payments have not had their cases reviewed – called a “redetermination” – in more than 10 years because of budget limitations, the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General estimated.
That’s about 13 percent of the nation’s SSI recipients. A total of $51.4 billion in SSI payments were made to 8.2 million recipients in fiscal 2017. The agency completed 2.6 million determinations.
Redeterminations are scheduled annually if something is likely to have changed in the recipient’s life or once every six years if a change in circumstances is unlikely. The reviews look at factors such as income, resources and living arrangements that may affect a recipient’s eligibility.
At first, reviews were conducted every three years, but that was changed in the 1990s – in response to staff cuts – to every six years for those cases where a change in circumstances was unlikely.
Federal investigators mailed questionnaires to some of those people whose cases were selected for review. For some, a detailed analysis was conducted. The recipients who were found to have been overpaid had too much in assets or income or in-kind support, or some combination of factors.
In one example cited in the report, a South Carolina woman had not had a review since 2004 and was discovered to have received income from her common-law spouse, who had died in 2016. SSA recovered $9,531 in overpayments from her.
In response to the Social Security IG’s audit, the agency’s Office of Quality Review is now planning a similar study in which 400 cases will be reviewed. In those cases, a redetermination has not been conducted in more than 10 years.
In its response to the report, the Social Security Administration said it expected to complete 2.9 million redeterminations in fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017.
This is not the first time the issue of overpayments of SSI has been raised. The Government Accountability Office designated SSI as one if its high-risk programs in 1997 after several years of reporting on several problems including overpayment detection and recovery practices.