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Collection of Civil Monetary Penalties

August 12, 2011
Contact: (410) 965-2671
The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a report today that finds SSA’s civil monetary penalty (CMP) collection efforts needing improvement.  
The Inspector General’s Office of Counsel has the authority to impose CMPs against individuals or entities for violations of the Social Security Act.  Violations include knowingly misleading SSA to gain or retain benefits; or using words, letters, or symbols in a manner that falsely conveys SSA’s approval, authorization, or endorsement.  
From September 1997 through December 2009, the Office of Counsel forwarded 1,371 CMPs, totaling approximately $27 million, to SSA for collection.  However, the Inspector General estimated that SSA had collected only about $4.5 million (17 percent) of that $27 million in penalties.  SSA recovers CMPs primarily by withholding some or all of an individual’s benefit payments.  However, the Inspector General found that SSA did not always collect CMP amounts due from individuals receiving SSA payments.  The report estimated SSA had not taken action to collect approximately $3.2 million in CMPs assessed against individuals who were receiving SSA payments at the time of our audit.  In addition, SSA withheld smaller amounts from individuals’ monthly payments than authorized, or did not complete recovery because individuals who received payments died before making full restitution.  
The audit results also indicated that SSA did not collect many CMPs assessed against individuals who were not receiving Social Security benefits, even though it has tools available to do so.  
In its response to this audit report, SSA agreed to address collection errors associated with our sampled cases, improve CMP tracking and monitoring, and provide periodic reports to SSA management on the status of collection activities.  
To view the full report, click here, or for additional information, contact the OIG's Office of External Relations at (410) 965-2671.  Refer to Common Identification Number A-06-11-11136.  
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