SSA’s DI program is one of the nation’s largest cash assistance programs. To ensure that beneficiaries remain eligible, SSA regulations require that beneficiaries promptly report their work activity—including starting a job or a change in wages—to the agency in a timely manner. If the beneficiary does not report changes or if SSA does not properly process reported work information, SSA may pay out benefits in excess of what is due, resulting in an overpayment. In fiscal year 2014, SSA identified $1.3 billion in DI benefit overpayments. Avoiding overpayments is imperative as they pose a burden for beneficiaries who must repay excess benefits and result in the loss of taxpayer dollars when they cannot be repaid.
In this statement based on ongoing work, GAO discusses preliminary observations regarding: 1) what is known about the extent of work-related DI overpayments; and 2) factors affecting SSA’s handling of work activity reported by beneficiaries. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, policies, and procedures, and prior GAO, OIG and SSA reports; analyzed 10 years of SSA data on overpayments; interviewed staff at SSA headquarters and at field offices and teleservice centers for three regions, selected to represent a range of relevant DI workloads.