The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently studied the extent to which SSA properly withholds Supplemental Security Income (SSI) underpayments to collect outstanding overpayments. A-07-17-50182. To recover an outstanding SSI overpayment, SSA can withhold the entire prior-month underpayment due a recipient up to the balance of the overpayment. SSA defines underpayments that are due for months before the month SSA identifies them as prior-month underpayments. SSA, however, cannot withhold an underpayment if it has been less than 60 days since it notified the recipient about the overpayment or if there is an outstanding request for waiver or reconsideration of the overpayment.
The OIG found that SSA does not always follow its own rules for withholding, largely because employees do not take the necessary manual steps. According to the OIG’s estimate, had SSA followed its policy in the approximately 125,000 prior-month underpayments paid to SSI recipients during calendar years 2015 and 2016, it could have recovered an additional $44 million in outstanding overpayments sooner than it would through other collection methods.