Audit Highlight: SSI Recipients Eligible for Retirement Benefits

Beyond the Numbers

Date: 
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Posted by: 
The Communications Division

Did you know Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and applicants over the age of 62 may also be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits?

SSI payments are meant as a last resort for aged, blind, or disabled individuals who meet certain income and resource limits for eligibility. Thus, it’s required that SSI applicants and recipients file for other benefit programs that reduce SSI payments, such as Social Security retirement benefits.

An application for SSI is an open application for SSA’s Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits. In fact, SSA employees must determine whether SSI applicants are eligible for OASDI benefits.

SSA employees assess potential retirement eligibility while they re-evaluate recipients’ eligibility for SSI payments. If it’s determined that an SSI recipient could be eligible for retirement benefits, SSA must notify the recipient in writing of the requirement to file for the benefits. A failure to do so has a direct effect on the recipient’s SSI eligibility and payment.

Consequently, if a recipient does not file for or pursue the OASDI benefit, his/her SSI eligibility ends with the month he/she received written notice to file for retirement benefits.

With this in mind, OIG auditors recently reported that SSA did not always award retirement benefits to SSI recipients who became eligible after they reached age 62.

In a recent audit report, our auditors reviewed a random sample of 50 SSI recipients and determined SSA should have awarded retirement benefits to 12 recipients—or 24 percent—who were fully insured and reached the age of 62. See the chart below for more information.

From that sample information, OIG auditors estimated that SSA did not award about $54.3 million in retirement benefits nor did it reduce SSI payments by about $49.5 million, as required.

Going one step further, our auditors then estimated underpayments to about 3,500 SSI recipients totaling about $5 million over a 12-month period.

To address this issue, SSA agreed with OIG recommendations to:

  • Determine the feasibility of reviewing additional SSI recipients identified by our audit who may be eligible for retirement benefits.
  • Remind employees to follow agency policy and inform SSI recipients when they become eligible for retirement benefits.

If SSA does not take corrective action to resolve this issue, OIG auditors estimated the agency would not award nearly $13 million in retirement benefits nor reduce SSI payments by nearly $13.6 million for recipients over the next 12 months.

For more information, see the full audit report, SSI Recipients Eligible for Retirement Benefits.