SSA Wants to Prioritize Termination of Benefits

June 7, 2017

From a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General:

Statutory benefit continuation allows an individual to continue receiving disability benefits during the appeal of a medical cessation determination at the reconsideration or ALJ hearing levels. If the cessation determination is upheld after appeal, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers the payments received during the appeals process overpayments the individual must return to SSA. 
We project SSA overpaid approximately $682.5 million to individuals in our population who continued receiving disability benefits during the appeals process but for whom ALJs upheld the cessation determinations from October 1, 2013 through July 8, 2016. This comprised $138.5 million overpaid to DI beneficiaries and $ 544 million overpaid to SSI recipients.
As of August 2016, SSA had collected only 4 percent, waived or terminated collection action on 17 percent, and posted another 37 per cent to the beneficiaries’ records but did not take action to collect, waive, or deem them uncollectible. SSA had not posted about 14 percent to the beneficiaries’ records for collection. Likewise, for the amount overpaid to the SSI recipients, SSA was in the process of collecting 61 percent. It had collected 2 percent, waived or terminated collection action on 13 percent, and had posted another 17 percent to the recipients’ records but did not take action to collect, waive, or deem them uncollectible. SSA had not posted 7 percent to the individuals’ records for collection. The average processing time for medical cessation appeals had increased from our prior reviews. Specifically, processing times were 766 days for sampled DI beneficiaries and 831 days for sampled SSI recipients — increases of 18 percent and 20 percent, respectively. If SSA prioritizes medical cessation appeals, it could increase DI and SSI programs’ financial performance. For example, we project SSA could have avoided $69.7 million in DI overpayments and $266 million in SSI overpayments had it completed the appeals process for medical cessation s within its processing time goals totaling 394 days. 
The agency’s response to the suggestion that it should prioritize cutting people off benefits because that would save money was to say “We agree.”

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