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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Listen to the GAO Podcast: Social Security Administration Improper Disability Insurance Payments

Social Security Administration Improper Disability Insurance Payments

SSA's DI program is the nation's largest cash assistance program for workers with disabilities. Though program rules allow limited work activity, some work activity indicates beneficiaries are not disabled and therefore not entitled to DI benefits. Consequently, SSA might overpay beneficiaries if the agency does not detect disqualifying work activity and suspend benefits appropriately.

GAO was asked to study potential DI overpayments. GAO examined the extent to which
 (1) the NDNH indicates that individuals received potential DI overpayments; and 
(2) SSA's enforcement operation detects potentially disqualifying work activity during the waiting period
GAO drew random, generalizable samples of individuals from those whose earnings on the NDNH were beyond program limits and compared wages from their employers to DI program data to identify potential overpayments. To illustrate the circumstances in which SSA made potential DI overpayments, GAO reviewed case files for a nongeneralizable selection of six individuals--three who worked during their waiting period, and three who received potential overpayments for at least 3 years.
Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect and prevent potential DI cash benefit overpayments due to work activity during the 5-month waiting period, the Commissioner of Social Security should assess the costs and feasibility of establishing a mechanism to detect potentially disqualifying earnings during all months of the waiting period, including those months of earnings that the agency's enforcement operation does not currently detect and implement this mechanism, to the extent that an analysis determines it is cost-effective and feasible.
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