With this audit, our objective was to determine whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) had adequate controls over death underpayments paid to non-beneficiaries.
A death underpayment occurs when beneficiaries die before they receive all benefits due them or before they endorse a benefit check payable before the month of death. Death underpayments are payable to relatives or the legal representatives of the estates of deceased beneficiaries. SSA issues death underpayments to non-beneficiaries through the Single Payment System (SPS). A non-beneficiary is usually a family member who is eligible to receive a death underpayment but not entitled to benefits.
In a 2007 audit, we found that SSA’s controls to prevent or detect improper or duplicate payments to non-beneficiaries were generally effective. However, SSA needed to improve its controls over the retention of supporting documentation for SPS payments and the recording of Social Security numbers (SSN) for SPS payments issued to non-beneficiaries.