Accuracy of Auxiliary Payments to Children After Divorce

Monday, May 12, 2014
Report Number: 
Report Type: 
Audit Report
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An individual is eligible for Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits as a stepchild if (1) his/her natural or adoptive parent married the beneficiary after the child was born or (2) he/she was conceived before the natural or adoptive parent married the beneficiary but was born after that marriage.

Pub. L. No. 104-121, the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, requires that, effective July 1996, a stepchild’s entitlement to benefits end the month after the natural parent’s divorce from the beneficiary. Before this change, the divorce had no effect on a stepchild’s entitlement.

In 2003 and 2006, SSA’s Office of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management (OBFQM) assessed the accuracy of stepchild benefits. These studies identified over $12 million in processing errors. OBFQM found that even when divorces were reported to the Agency, the termination action for the stepchild was often mishandled.

The objective of this report was to determine whether SSA terminated auxiliary benefits to a stepchild when a marriage between the beneficiary and the child’s parent ended in divorce.