Social Security Administration employees handed out $64 million intended for low-income Americans, but the officials ignored recipients’ earnings – a problem that could have been corrected a decade ago, according to a government watchdog.
The Supplemental Security Income program is meant to support low-income earners, but federal officials often failed to consider how much recipients actually earned, according to a recent report by the SSA’s inspector general. The IG previously reported the problem twice in the past decade.
The SSI “is a needs-based program for aged, blind or disabled individuals, and recipients must meet certain income and resource limits for eligibility,” the report said.
“We estimate that SSA improperly paid approximately $64 million in SSI payments to about 38,600 SSI recipients because the agency did not consider all their earnings when it calculated SSI payment amounts,” the IG said.
“An individual who has too much income in a particular month is not eligible for SSI in that month,” the IG said. Likewise, a recipient whose income had decreased didn’t always get increased supplements from the SSA.
Essentially, SSA employees either didn’t collect the proper information about earned income or ignored alerts that indicated changes to recipients’ earnings. In some cases, earnings alerts were ignored for as long as three years.
“SSA should work these alerts timely to ensure it posted overpayments to the record and finds any additional wages,” the IG said.
Also, SSA employees don’t consistently transfer earnings information to the database used to make supplemental income payments.
“In reports issued in 2005 and 2012, we recommended SSA improve these areas, but, as of 2015, issues still existed,” the IG said.