Underpayments Payable to Widow(er)s Eligible for a Higher Monthly Benefit Amount
We issued this report to determine whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) had adequate controls to ensure it established the correct primary insurance amount (PIA) for widow(er)s when a wage earner died before age 62.
Normally, the eligibility year used to determine the PIA is the year a wage earner attains age 62, becomes disabled, or dies. However, the Social Security Act requires an alternative PIA computation for aged and disabled widow(er)s’ benefits when the deceased wage earner dies before age 62. The alternative method, Widow(er)’s Indexing (WINDEX) PIA, can result in a higher monthly benefit amount payable to widow(er)s because the PIA calculation uses the widow(er)’s eligibility year or the year the wage earner would have attained age 62.
SSA uses the Modernized Claims System (MCS) to take and process applications for benefits, which automatically computes a WINDEX PIA, if applicable. However, there are some claims that SSA must process outside MCS.
We identified 178,462 widow(er)s who did not have a WINDEX PIA, and the deceased wage earners died before they attained age 62.