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Government May Have Overpaid $380 Million in SSI Benefits

Budget constraints kept Social Security Administration from reviewing the status of some Supplemental Security Income recipients

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An estimated 77,000 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients may have been overpaid $381.5 million because the Social Security Administration (SSA) had not reviewed their cases in more than 10 years, according to a report the agency’s inspector general released this week.

Overall, about 1.1 million SSI recipients had not had a redetermination of their benefits conducted in more than a decade because the SSA did not have the budget to cover the reviews, the report says. More than 8.2 million people received SSI benefits in 2017, for a total of $51.4 billion.

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SSI is a federal program designed to help aged, blind and other people with disabilities who have little or no income by providing them with money to meet basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. It is funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security payroll taxes.

The SSA conducts periodic reviews of SSI recipients’ nonmedical factors — such as income, other financial resources and living arrangements — to determine whether their benefits should be adjusted. Reviews typically occur annually if the SSA believes changes in the recipient’s financial circumstances seem likely or once every six years if changes are considered unlikely.

But for some recipients, redeterminations have not been conducted in as many as 13 years. For example, one SSI recipient from Illinois, whose last review was completed in May 2005, received $17,616 in overpayments from the SSA over 24 months. The overpayments were identified only because the recipient, when responding to the questionnaire the inspector general sent to prepare this report, said she had new financial resources that would affect her SSI eligibility. As a result of the report and a follow-up review, the SSA is withholding some funds from the woman’s monthly SSI payments to recover the previous overpayment.

In response to the report, the SSA said it had completed 2.6 million redeterminations in fiscal year 2017 and plans to complete 2.9 million in fiscal year 2018. The SSA also said it will examine its policy to determine the best use of its resources for reviewing SSI eligibility in a “cost-effective and efficient manner.”

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