THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
IDENTIFICATION OF SPECIAL
DISABILITY WORKLOAD CASES
We improve SSA programs and operations and protect them against fraud, waste, and abuse by conducting independent and objective audits, evaluations, and investigations. We provide timely, useful, and reliable information and advice to Administration officials, the Congress, and the public.
The Inspector General Act created independent audit and investigative units, called the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The mission of the OIG, as spelled out in the Act, is to:
Conduct and supervise independent and objective audits and investigations
relating to agency programs and operations.
Promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency within the agency.
Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in agency programs and operations.
Review and make recommendations regarding existing and proposed legislation and regulations relating to agency programs and operations.
Keep the agency head and the Congress fully and currently informed of problems in agency programs and operations.
To ensure objectivity, the IG Act empowers the IG with:
Independence to determine what reviews to perform.
Access to all information necessary for the reviews.
Authority to publish findings and recommendations based on the reviews.
By conducting independent and objective audits, investigations, and evaluations,
we are agents of positive change striving for continuous improvement in the
Social Security Administration's programs, operations, and management and in
our own office.
Date: January 24, 2006
To: The Commissioner
From: Inspector General
Subject: The Social Security Administration's Identification of Special Disability Workload Cases (A-13-05-15028)
Our objectives were to determine whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) had (1) identified and taken actions to implement system enhancements to prevent future Special Disability Workload (SDW) cases and (2) identified the universe of SDW cases.
SSA administers the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The SSI program provides payments to individuals who have limited income and resources and who are either age 65 or older, blind or disabled. , The OASDI program provides benefits to qualified retired and disabled workers and their dependents as well as to survivors of insured workers.
Based on Section 1611(e)(2) of the Social Security Act, SSI recipients who have been identified as eligible for OASDI benefits are required to file for those benefits. When SSA identifies an SSI recipient who may be eligible for OASDI benefits, SSA notifies the individual of his or her eligibility and the requirement to file for OASDI benefits.
Studies SSA conducted in July 1999 identified approximately 130,000 SSI recipients who appeared, based on their earnings, to be insured for benefits under the OASDI program. However, at that time, the SSI recipients were not receiving OASDI benefits. Subsequent studies in 2002 identified additional SSI recipients who appeared to be eligible for OASDI benefits but were not receiving them. While some of the individuals identified in July 1999 had claims dating back to 1973, SSA estimated the SSI recipients who were determined to be eligible for OASDI benefits had been eligible for an average of about 8 years. As of November 2004, there were approximately 466,000 cases of SSI recipients identified as possibly being insured for benefits under the OASDI program (see Appendix C). The Agency categorized these individuals as SDW cases.
In each of SSA's 10 regions, specialized cadres of technical experts worked with field offices, Federal/State Disability Determination Services, program service centers and SSA's Office of Central Operations to review and assess some of the SDW cases (see Appendix D). The Agency advised us 127,287 cases were completed through September 2005. The Agency reported that, as of November 23, 2005, the cadres had completed 87,897 cases. We did not verify these totals.
RESULTS OF REVIEW
While SSA has undertaken several studies to identify all SSI recipients who appear to be insured for OASDI benefits, it has identified additional groups of cases with potential OASDI entitlement not included in the universe of SDW cases. Further, the Agency has implemented system enhancements to assist with processing SDW claimant cases. However, failure to identify potential OASDI eligibility factors and programming weaknesses limited the Agency's ability to identify SSI recipients who may have been eligible for OASDI benefits.
SSA HAS TAKEN ACTIONS TO IDENTIFY SDW CASES
SSA has taken actions to identify SSI recipients who appear to be insured for OASDI benefits based on their own earnings but not receiving such benefits.
In July 1999, the Agency identified approximately 130,000 SSI recipients who,
based on their earnings, appeared to be insured for, but were not receiving,
OASDI benefits. In February 2003, SSA organized a workgroup comprised of various
program and information systems technical experts. The workgroup quantified
the potential impact of SDW on the Agency's programs and operations. Led by
the Agency's Office of Operations, the workgroup used SSA's information systems
to identify SDW cases, determined the need to clarify the Agency's SSI policies,
and developed SDW case selection criteria (see Appendix C).
The workgroup provided the Office of Systems the SDW case selection criteria. Using these criteria, the Office of Systems modified the Agency's information systems to identify potential SDW cases. As potential SDW cases were detected, SSA's systems annotated Quarter of Coverage indicators (codes) on SSI recipients' Supplemental Security Records (SSR). The Quarter of Coverage codes indicated potential OASDI insured status. As of April 2004, the Agency had applied several case selection criteria. In Fiscal Year 2005, the Agency had plans to apply additional case selection criteria to identify more SDW cases. On average, each SDW case selection criteria application takes about 6 months to develop, apply, and validate.
As a result of these efforts, the Agency identified claimants who were added to the list of SDW cases. The workload grew from about 130,000 cases to nearly 466,000 cases (an increase of about 350 percent). In addition, SSA identified cost estimates of this workload's impact on Agency operations and programs.
We were unable to recreate the actions the Agency took to identify the population of SDW cases because some of the program source codes were not available. SSA management explained the source codes were developed in a decentralized manner, and not all codes were retained. Additionally, the population of SSRs had changed since the original SDW cases were identified. Therefore, we were unable to independently determine whether the approximately 466,000 SDW cases (as of November 2004) represented the total number of SSI recipients who appeared to be insured for OASDI benefits.
The Agency has defined the SDW workload as a discrete group of cases with SSI entitlement based on applications before January 1, 2000 and with apparent sufficient earnings established on the individual's own earnings record for OASDI entitlement but for which entitlement has not been established.
In July 2005, SSA informed us that there were some additional categories of
cases involving potential entitlement to OASDI benefits. However, these cases
did not meet the Agency's definition of SDW. As such, the Agency had not included
these additional categories in the universe of SDW cases. SSA stated it had
activities in place to identify and review such cases. When SSA reviews these
additional categories, some of these cases may be entitled to OASDI benefits.
SSA LEVERAGED TECHNOLOGY TO ASSIST IN PROCESSING SDW CASES
To assist field office staff in making accurate determinations for SDW cases, SSA developed new software and tools and used existing systems. These enhancements assist in processing initial SSI disability claims. SSA also updated its disability case processing polices and procedures to provide direction for handling SDW cases.
Agency management stated that many of the disability claims it processes involve complicated issues. For example, disability claims can involve a claimant's insured status, work issues, prior filings of disability claims, and benefit entitlement dates.
These issues are also found in SDW claimant cases. The Agency reports SDW cases are complex because of the significant amount of time that may have elapsed from the date of the initial filing of the disability claim until the date the Agency made a decision about the SSI recipients' eligibility for OASDI benefits.
SSA modified and used existing systems to process SDW claimant cases. These systems assist SSA employees in making accurate determinations concerning the insured status, work issues, prior filings, and entitlement dates for disability claims, including SDW cases. Specifically, the Agency used the Disability Insured Status Calculator Online, Disability Wizard, and Modernized Return to Work Program software.
Additionally, system enhancements were developed to provide ready access to
SSA's Master Earnings File. This access allows SSA staff to make an informal
determination of insured status for disability claims. Moreover, the SSI diary
system was enhanced
to ensure alerts are issued when SSI recipients have earnings. SSA management stated that many of the cases identified as SDW cases are complex and require careful screening and diligent review. As a result, the Agency updated its disability claim processing policies and procedures. For example, the Agency revised its automated SDW Processing Guide. This Guide includes instructions for processing SDW cases, such as steps personnel should follow to conduct a pre-interview screening. Additionally, in April 2002, the Agency implemented SDW refresher training.
Also, to assist in managing SDW cases, SSA created an SDW website. The website contains claimant case control management information and SDW reference materials. For example, information is provided on the website on using SSI disability decisions to establish entitlement for OASDI benefits. Additionally, SSA staff stated the SDW website automatically interfaces with the "800 number system" and the Modernized Claim System, which produces an alert that SDW development needs to be completed. Also, the website tracks the status of SDW cases. SSA personnel can access and update information on the website.
SSA HAD NOT FULLY MODIFIED ITS SYSTEMS TO PREVENT FUTURE SDW CASES
Office of Management and Budget Circular A-123, Management Accountability and Control, states agencies must take systematic and proactive measures to develop and implement appropriate, cost-effective management controls. Management controls (internal controls) are policies and procedures used to reasonably ensure reliable and timely information is obtained, maintained, reported and used for decisionmaking. In addition, management controls are policies and procedures used to reasonably ensure programs achieve their intended results.
Failure to identify certain OASDI eligibility factors and programming weaknesses limited the effectiveness of the systems that alert field offices an SSI recipient may be potentially eligible for OASDI benefits. To help Agency personnel identify these individuals, SSA's systems are programmed to annotate a KZ diary on the SSR. The presence of a KZ diary on the SSR is notification to SSA staff of a need to determine whether the SSI recipient is eligible for OASDI benefits.
Despite the number of SDW cases SSA identified, Agency management stated the systems that result in the annotation of a KZ diary on the SSR were working as they were initially programmed. However, SSA acknowledged the systems were not designed to identify certain potential OASDI eligibility factors and had programming weaknesses. In 2002, the Office of Quality Assurance and Performance Assessment (OQA) reported the ". . . system did not select a case if it showed no current earnings on the SSR " or " auxiliary/survivor title II beneficiaries. " Further, OQA indicated " the software does not select records showing pending action on a title II claim, and continues to generate false alerts. "
In addition, Agency regional staff reported SDW " has shown that the KZ diary process failed to identify many SSI recipients who were insured." In the April 2004 Special Disability Workload Processing Guide, SSA reported (1) the "redetermination merge run selections" that occur every September failed to set KZ diary alerts to warn field office personnel of an SSI recipient's insured status, and (2) subsequent earnings resulting in insured status did not generate the KZ diary. Also, during the redetermination process, field office personnel did not routinely assess OASDI insured status even though SSI recipients had earnings on their Master Earnings Files.
To ensure SSA identifies categories of potential entitlement cases, appropriate steps need to be taken to identify SSI recipients who appear to be potentially insured for OASDI benefits. SSA management stated the Agency plans to improve the systems that alert field offices that a recipient is potentially insured for OASDI benefits by proposing additional system enhancements for processing disability claims. These proposals have been submitted to the Agency's Information Technology Advisory Board for review and approval. According to the Board's Plan for FYs 2005 through 2006, system enhancements will be made to the SSI process to help prevent future potential entitlement cases. As of March 2004, the Agency reported its processing of SDW cases was not expected to be completed until 2010.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
While SSA has taken actions to identify SSI recipients who appeared to be insured for OASDI benefit payments, it has identified additional groups of cases with potential OASDI entitlement not included in the universe of SDW cases. Further, the Agency has implemented system enhancements to assist with the processing of SDW cases. However, failure to identify potential OASDI eligibility factors and programming weaknesses limited the effectiveness of SSA's systems designed to identify SSI recipients who may potentially be eligible for OASDI benefits. To prevent future potential entitlement cases, SSA must continue to take actions to identify SSI recipients who appear likely to be insured for OASDI benefits.
We recommend SSA:
1. Ensure enhancements to systems that identify SSI recipients who may potentially be eligible for OASDI benefits are made a top priority and implemented timely.
2. Continue to process SDW cases, and pay OASDI benefits for those SDW cases determined to be eligible for benefit payments.
The Agency agreed with our recommendations. The full text of the Agency's comments is included in Appendix E.
Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr.
APPENDIX A - Acronyms
APPENDIX B - Scope and Methodology
APPENDIX C - Universe of Special Disability Workload Cases as of November 2004
APPENDIX D - Processing the Special Disability Workload
APPENDIX E - Agency Comments
APPENDIX F - OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
C.F.R. Code of Federal Regulations
OASDI Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance
OIG Office of the Inspector General
OQA Office of Quality Assurance and Performance Assessment
POMS Program Operations Manual System
QCI Quarters of Coverage Indicator
SDW Special Disability Workload
SSA Social Security Administration
SSI Supplemental Security Income
SSR Supplemental Security Record
U.S.C. United States Code
Scope and Methodology
To accomplish our objectives, we:
Reviewed the applicable sections of the Social Security Act and the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Special Disability Workload (SDW) National Website.
Interviewed SSA personnel to obtain an understanding of the policies and procedures for identifying SDW cases.
Obtained from SSA's National Database a listing of all SDW cases posted to the National Website as of September 2004.
The entities reviewed were the Office of Quality Assurance and Performance Assessment under the Deputy Commissioner for Finance, Assessment and Management; the Offices of Public Service and Operations Support, and Automation Support under the Deputy Commissioner for Operations; and the Office of Disability and Supplemental Security Income Systems under the Deputy Commissioner for Systems. We performed our review from August 2004 through November 2005 in Baltimore, Maryland. We conducted our review in accordance with the Quality Standards for Inspections issued by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.
Universe of Special Disability Workload Cases as of November 2004
Based on various Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) eligibility requirements, a listing of Special Disability Workload (SDW) cases was identified and posted to the Agency's website. The Office of Systems annotated a special Quarters of Coverage Indicator (QCI) code on selected Supplemental Security Records. The Office of Systems reported the following.
SDW Cases Date of System Run
Z Original workload of SDW cases identified in July 1999. 130,460 July 1999
H Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants/recipients who are receiving auxiliary or survivor OASDI benefit payments and are potentially entitled to higher OASDI benefits.
D SSI applicants/recipients potentially insured with higher OASDI benefits.
P Cases with processing limitations in the normal insured status screening process.
M SSI recipients entitled to reduced retirement insurance benefit payments but appear to be eligible for non-reduced disability insurance benefits.
T Individuals who once received SSI payments but whose SSI records are likely in a terminated status.
See footnote 1
Additional cases with Special QCI Codes Identified (Not Listed on Website)
KZ Diary SDW cases identified in January 2002 KZ diary clean up run.
A SSI applicants insured for retirement insurance benefit payments.
Processing the Special Disability Workload
Specialized cadres of technical experts in each region work with field offices, Federal/State Disability Determination Services, program service centers and the Office of Central Operations to process Special Disability Workload (SDW) cases. These cadres review records for each affected Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient to determine when the person first became eligible for Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits. These experts calculate the amount of benefit payments individuals should have received and the amount of SSI payments these individuals should not have received.
To accomplish this task, technical experts work with other Agency components to
1. screen the case to ensure the individual is insured and meets the criteria
2. map the case for field office jurisdiction,
3. interview the claimant,
4. develop the case,
5. conduct pre-Disability Determination Service effectuation reviews,
6. send cases to the Disability Determination Services,
7. prepare awards and denials,
8. conduct pre payment reviews,
9. adjudicate awards and denials, including SDW reconsiderations,
10. conduct payment effectuation,
11. calculate the windfall offset, and
12. effectuate the windfall offset.
The Social Security Administration reports the average length of time to process an SDW case is approximately 10 months. As of March 2004, the Agency reported its processing of SDW cases was not expected to be completed until 2010.
OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
Shirley E. Todd, Director, General Management Audit Division (410) 966-9365
Brian Karpe, Audit Manager, General Management (410) 966-1029
In addition to those named above:
Tracey Edwards, Senior Auditor
Jim Penna, Auditor
Kim Beauchamp, Writer/Editor
For additional copies of this report, please visit our web site at www.socialsecurity.gov/oig
or contact the Office of the Inspector General's Public Affairs Specialist at
(410) 965-3218. Refer to Common Identification Number
Overview of the Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is comprised of our Office of Investigations (OI), Office of Audit (OA), Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General (OCCIG), and Office of Resource Management (ORM). To ensure compliance with policies and procedures, internal controls, and professional standards, we also have a comprehensive Professional Responsibility and Quality Assurance program.
Office of Audit
OA conducts and/or supervises financial and performance audits of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) programs and operations and makes recommendations to ensure program objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. Financial audits assess whether SSA's financial statements fairly present SSA's financial position, results of operations, and cash flow. Performance audits review the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of SSA's programs and operations. OA also conducts short-term management and program evaluations and projects on issues of concern to SSA, Congress, and the general public.
Office of Investigations
OI conducts and coordinates investigative activity related to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in SSA programs and operations. This includes wrongdoing by applicants, beneficiaries, contractors, third parties, or SSA employees performing their official duties. This office serves as OIG liaison to the Department of Justice on all matters relating to the investigations of SSA programs and personnel. OI also conducts joint investigations with other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General
OCCIG provides independent legal advice and counsel to the IG on various matters, including statutes, regulations, legislation, and policy directives. OCCIG also advises the IG on investigative procedures and techniques, as well as on legal implications and conclusions to be drawn from audit and investigative material. Finally, OCCIG administers the Civil Monetary Penalty program.
Office of Resource Management
ORM supports OIG by providing information resource management and systems security. ORM also coordinates OIG's budget, procurement, telecommunications, facilities, and human resources. In addition, ORM is the focal point for OIG's strategic planning function and the development and implementation of performance measures required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.