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OIG Finds Errors in Post-Entitlement Updates

Empire Justice Center April 30, 2020

The Social Security Administration (SSA) must update its records to reflect changes in a Title II beneficiary’s circumstances to ensure it continues issuing correct benefit payment. SSA refers to updates to existing records as post-entitlement actions. Some post-entitlement actions include predictable events, such as beneficiaries attaining specific ages when SSA must terminate or adjust their benefits. For example, SSA terminates children’s benefits at age 18 unless they are a full-time elementary or secondary school student or disabled. Also, SSA converts disability benefits to retirement benefits when beneficiaries attain full retirement age. Other post-entitlement actions include unpredictable events, such as a beneficiary’s death, changes of address or marital status, or work activity. Most changes are automatically processed by SSA’s Title II Redesign (T2R) system. But when the changes cannot be processed automatically, the T2R system issues post-entitlement alerts. Processing Center employees must then process the changes manually.

 

During calendar years 2013 through 2018, T2R produced approximately 8.3 million alerts for post-entitlement actions it could not automatically process. A recent audit report (A-07-18-50621) by SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded that processing center employees incorrectly processed 42 percent of the alerts sampled. OIG estimated the errors resulted in approximately $1.3 billion in improper payments, including both under- and overpayments. In response to the report, OIG made a number of recommendations. SSA initiated multiple initiatives to improve manual processing of post-entitlement actions, including refresher training and a national quality review program. The OIG will do a follow-up study in the future.