THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
FOR THE SOCIAL SECURITY
ADMINISTRATION IN THE
We improve SSA programs and operations and protect them against fraud, waste, and abuse by conducting independent and objective audits, evaluations, and investigations. We provide timely, useful, and reliable information and advice to Administration officials, the Congress, and the public.
The Inspector General Act created independent audit and investigative units, called the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The mission of the OIG, as spelled out in the Act, is to:
Conduct and supervise independent and objective audits and investigations
relating to agency programs and operations.
Promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency within the agency.
Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in agency programs and operations.
Review and make recommendations regarding existing and proposed legislation and regulations relating to agency programs and operations.
Keep the agency head and the Congress fully and currently informed of problems in agency programs and operations.
To ensure objectivity, the IG Act empowers the IG with:
Independence to determine what reviews to perform.
Access to all information necessary for the reviews.
Authority to publish findings and recommendations based on the reviews.
By conducting independent and objective audits, investigations, and evaluations, we are agents of positive change striving for continuous improvement in the Social Security Administration's programs, operations, and management and in our own office.
Date: February 11, 2005
To: Horace Dickerson
Regional Commissioner Dallas
From: Inspector General
Subject: Individual Representative Payees for the Social Security Administration in the Dallas Region (A-06-05-15053)
Our objective was to confirm that beneficiaries in the care of representative payees existed; and, through personal observation and interviews, to determine whether the beneficiaries' food, clothing and shelter needs were being met.
Some individuals cannot manage or direct the management of their finances because of their youth or mental and/or physical impairments. Congress granted the Social Security Administration (SSA) the authority to appoint representative payees to receive and manage these beneficiaries' benefit payments. A representative payee may be an individual or an organization. SSA selects representative payees for Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients when representative payments would serve the individual's interests.
SSA's primary concern is to select the payee who will best serve the beneficiary's
interest; and preference is normally given to a parent, legal guardian, spouse
or other relative of a beneficiary. SSA considers payments to a representative
payee to have been used for benefit of the beneficiary if they were spent on
the beneficiary's current maintenance-which includes the costs incurred in "
food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and personal comfort items."
This review is part of a nation-wide review of individual representative payees serving 14 or fewer beneficiaries. There are approximately 4.3 million of these types of representative payees serving 5.5 million beneficiaries. To provide statistically valid nation-wide projections, we selected 275 representative payees for review, of which 36 were in the Dallas Region. These 36 representative payees received and managed approximately $26,661 in monthly benefits for 51 beneficiaries. Appendix B contains the Scope and Methodology of our review.
RESULTS OF REVIEW
We confirmed the existence of the 51 beneficiaries in the care of the 36 representative payees in the Dallas Region. We also determined, through personal observation and interviews, that beneficiaries' food, clothing and shelter needs were being met. For the 51 beneficiaries, nothing came to our attention that would lead us to believe the representative payees did not use the Social Security benefits received for the beneficiaries' needs.
SSA staff accompanied us on our visits with the representative payees and beneficiaries. SSA staff participation provided them an opportunity to identify and address issues that had not been reported to SSA. In 7 of the 36 visits, issues surfaced for further review by SSA. For example, some beneficiaries failed to report sources of income. SSA staff took action to address these issues or stated they would follow up on all identified issues. These are discussed below.
Representative Payees Did Not Report Events to SSA that Affected Beneficiaries' Entitlement or Benefit Amount
One of a representative payee's primary responsibilities is to notify SSA of any event that would affect the amount of benefits the beneficiary receives or the beneficiary's right to receive benefits. We determined that five representative payees did not timely notify SSA of events that affected beneficiary eligibility or benefit amount; three may have involved overpayments, one may have involved an underpayment, and one may not have had an overall impact on the family's maximum benefit.
Case 1 - In Little Rock, Arkansas, a representative payee informed us that the recipient earned extra money baby-sitting. The additional income had not been reported to SSA and potentially resulted in some improper payments. Depending on the amount of extra money earned, the recipient's income could reduce payments by up to the total payment amount of $564. The local field office is following up on the impact of the unreported income.
Case 2 - In New Orleans, Louisiana, we met with a representative payee who was managing $1,692 in monthly benefits for her three disabled children. It was determined that she had self-employment income that she had not reported to SSA. The representative payee told the SSA representative that she could not answer questions related to this income until she reviewed her records. This unreported income could affect benefit amounts or eligibility. The SSA field office is following up on this matter.
Case 3 - In Keithville, Louisiana, a representative payee (mother of a 2-year-old SSI recipient) did not disclose she was married to, and living with, the child's father. This previously undisclosed condition could reduce the $391 per month paid to this recipient. An SSA representative from the Shreveport Field Office has initiated a redetermination of benefits based on this new information.
Case 4 - In Santa Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico, a representative payee (mother of a 13-year-old SSI recipient) did not report to SSA she had been unemployed for nearly 1 year. Wages from her previous employment resulted in a reduction of the child's monthly benefit amount from $564 to $376. Consequently, the child may have been underpaid during the period of her mother's unemployment. The SSA representative will follow up on this matter.
Case 5 - In Austin, Texas, a 2-year-old child in the household was eligible for OASDI benefits under the retired father's account. The other children in the household were receiving OASDI benefits; however, the 2-year old had never been established on the record. The two children receiving benefits were receiving a combined monthly total equal to the family maximum limit for auxiliaries of $657 per month ($328 each per month). With the third child's eligibility, each child would be entitled to one-third of the $657 per month. The SSA representative will follow up on this issue.
Overdue Continuing Disability Reviews
After an individual is determined to be disabled, SSA is required by statute to periodically determine whether the individual is still disabled. To carry out this statutory requirement, a continuing disability review is conducted at selected intervals.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a woman was a representative payee for her two disabled children and was also an SSI recipient. During our interview, we determined the mother and one child were overdue for a continuing disability review. The SSA field office initiated continuing disability reviews for all three recipients. There is no monetary effect unless a recipient is deemed ineligible resulting from the continuing disability review.
Representative Payee No Longer Needed
During our interviews, we identified two instances (Little Rock, Arkansas, and Plaucheville, Louisiana) where, after discussion with the representative payees, beneficiaries, and SSA field office representatives, it was determined the beneficiaries were capable of managing their own funds. Consequently, in both instances, SSA staff took action to remove the representative payees from the record.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
We determined that all 51 beneficiaries existed and were in the care of their representative payee. In addition, based on our observations, the individuals' food, clothing and shelter needs appeared to be met. Our visits with the payees and beneficiaries provided the local SSA staff the opportunity to address other issues facing the payees and beneficiaries-thus contributing to SSA's goal for delivering high quality, citizen-centered service. Some issues were identified for SSA's attention that may have had an impact on the benefit eligibility amounts. SSA initiated action on all identified issues. Accordingly, we recommend that the Dallas Regional Office:
1. Complete its determination of the impact of unreported income to beneficiary
2. Complete its determination on whether the deemed income, if any, from the unreported marriage impacts the payment to the recipient.
3. Complete its determination of the impact to benefit amounts resulting from reduced income.
4. Complete its determination of whether a child should be added as an auxiliary beneficiary on the retired father's account.
5. Ensure CDRs for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, case are completed.
SSA agreed with our recommendations and took action to address the issues raised in the report. See Appendix D for the full text of SSA's comments.
We found that seven addresses listed in SSA records were incorrect. Five of these addresses were wrong for both the representative payee and the beneficiary and the other two were wrong for the beneficiary only. We reported these errors to Dallas Region staff, who took action to correct SSA records.
Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr.
APPENDIX A - Acronyms
APPENDIX B - Scope and Methodology
APPENDIX C - Sampling Methodology
APPENDIX D - Agency Comments
APPENDIX E - OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
CDR Continuing Disability Review
C.F.R. Code of Federal Regulations
OASDI Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance
POMS Program Operations Manual System
SSA Social Security Administration
SSI Supplemental Security Income
U.S.C. United States Code
Scope and Methodology
Our population included all individual representative payees within the contiguous 48 States serving 14 or fewer beneficiaries as of May 20, 2004. To accomplish our objective, we:
Reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) policies and procedures for monitoring representative payees and their responsibilities for the beneficiaries in their care.
Obtained a data extract of representative payees from the Representative Payee System as of May 2004 meeting our selection criteria.
Selected a random sample of 275 representative payees nationwide. We are issuing a separate report on the nation-wide results, as well as separate reports for each of the 10 SSA regions.
For the 36 representative payees in the Dallas Region, we
verified the identities of 36 representative payees and 51 beneficiaries they served;
interviewed 36 representative payees;
interviewed and observed 50 beneficiaries; and
visited and observed the living conditions of 51 beneficiaries.
We performed our review in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas from July to October 2004. We conducted our review in accordance with the Quality Standards for Inspections issued by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.
To identify the nation-wide population, we obtained a data extract from the Social Security Administration's Representative Payee System of all individual representative payees who had 14 or fewer beneficiaries in their care as of May 20, 2004. This population was 5,380,635 representative payees who served 6,818,696 beneficiaries.
From this population, we excluded representative payees who had any of the
resided outside of the 48 contiguous States;
served only as their own representative payee as reflected in the Representative Payee System;
had only beneficiaries who were in non-current pay status;
had an invalid State code or military address; or
managed total funds of $50 or less each month.
This reduced the population to 4,306,779 representative payees with 5,520,303
beneficiaries. From this population, we randomly selected 275 representative
payees for review. Our sample included 36 representative payees in the Dallas
Region. Findings reported in the Dallas Region report will be reported as part
of the national roll up report.
Date: February 1, 2005
To: Office of Inspector General
From: Horace Dickerson
Dallas Regional Commissioner
Subject: Individual Representative Payees for the Social Security Administration in the Dallas Region (A-06-05-15053) - INFORMATION
We appreciate the Office of Inspector General's efforts in conducting this review and the opportunity to comment on the report content and provide recommendations.
Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
If you have any questions, please call Lottie Dotson at 214-767-4224, in Management and Operations Support, Center for Programs Support.
Dallas Region Response
COMMENTS OF THE DALLAS REGION SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (SSA) ON THE OFFICE OF THE INPECTOR GENERAL (OIG) DRAFT REPORT, "REVIEW OF INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATIVE PAYEES FOR THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION IN THE DALLAS REGION (A-06-05-15053)"
Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the subject draft report. Our responses to the specific recommendations are provided below.
The objective of the review was to confirm that beneficiaries in the care of representative payees existed; and, through personal observation and interviews, to determine whether the beneficiaries' food, clothing and shelter needs were being met.
The review was part of a nation-wide review of individual representative payees serving 14 or fewer beneficiaries. To provide statistically valid nation-wide projections, 275 representative payees were selected for review, of which 36 were in the Dallas Region. These 36 representative payees received and managed approximately $26,661 in monthly benefits for 51 beneficiaries.
During the review, OIG confirmed the existence of all 51 beneficiaries in the care of the 36 representative payees. Through personal observation, they determined that all 51 beneficiaries' food, clothing and shelter needs were being met and nothing came to their attention to indicate the representative payees did not use the Social Security benefits for the beneficiaries' needs. SSA staff accompanied OIG on the visits with the representative payees and beneficiaries to identify and address issues that had not been reported to SSA.
Complete its determination of the impact of unreported income to beneficiary payments.
Dallas Region Comment
Corrective action has been completed. In Little Rock, AR, the representative payee informed OIG that the SSI recipient earned extra money by baby-sitting. The SSR for XXX-XX-XXXX was updated 09/28/04 to reflect this income.
Complete its determination on whether the deemed income, if any, from the unreported marriage impacts the payment to the recipient.
Dallas Region Comment
In Keithville, LA, the representative payee did not disclose she was married to and living with the child's father. The representative payee was interviewed in August 2004 and the field office determined that the child's father does not live in the household. No further action is required.
Complete its determination of the impact to benefit amounts resulting from reduced income.
Dallas Region Comment
Corrective action has been completed. In Santa Domingo Pueblo, NM, the representative payee did not report that she had been unemployed for nearly a year. The SSR for XXX-XX-XXXX was updated 12/2004 to increase the benefit amount for the recipient effective 01/2005 and to issue an underpayment in the amount of $4645.66 for the retroactive period.
Complete its determination of whether a child should be added as an auxiliary beneficiary on the retired father's account.
Dallas Region Comment
Corrective action has been completed. In Austin, TX, an application for child's benefits for a 2-year old child in the household had not been filed. An auxiliary application was processed via EC 12/07/04 on claim number XXX-XX-XXXX.
Ensure CDRs for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana case are completed.
Dallas Region Comment
All necessary actions have been completed. In Baton Rouge, LA, an SSI recipient and her two disabled children were overdue for a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). The CDR for the representative payee (XXX-XX-XXXX) and one child (XXX-XX-XXXX) was cleared to DDS 01/24/05. The record shows the other disabled child (XXX-XX-XXXX) is not scheduled for a CDR until 08/2006.
OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
Paul Davila, Director, (214) 767-6317
Ron Gunia, Audit Manager, (214) 767-6620
In addition to those named above:
Warren Wasson, Senior Auditor
Joshua Campos, Auditor
Wanda Renteria, Auditor
Clara Soto, Auditor
Brennan Kraje, Statistician
Kimberly Beauchamp, Writer-Editor
For additional copies of this report, please visit our web site at www.ssa.gov/oig or contact the Office of the Inspector General's Public Affairs Specialist at (410) 965-3218. Refer to Common Identification Number A-06-05-15053.
Overview of the Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is comprised of our Office of Investigations (OI), Office of Audit (OA), Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General (OCCIG), and Office of Executive Operations (OEO). To ensure compliance with policies and procedures, internal controls, and professional standards, we also have a comprehensive Professional Responsibility and Quality Assurance program.
Office of Audit
OA conducts and/or supervises financial and performance audits of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) programs and operations and makes recommendations to ensure program objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. Financial audits assess whether SSA's financial statements fairly present SSA's financial position, results of operations, and cash flow. Performance audits review the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of SSA's programs and operations. OA also conducts short-term management and program evaluations and projects on issues of concern to SSA, Congress, and the general public.
Office of Investigations
OI conducts and coordinates investigative activity related to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in SSA programs and operations. This includes wrongdoing by applicants, beneficiaries, contractors, third parties, or SSA employees performing their official duties. This office serves as OIG liaison to the Department of Justice on all matters relating to the investigations of SSA programs and personnel. OI also conducts joint investigations with other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General
OCCIG provides independent legal advice and counsel to the IG on various matters, including statutes, regulations, legislation, and policy directives. OCCIG also advises the IG on investigative procedures and techniques, as well as on legal implications and conclusions to be drawn from audit and investigative material. Finally, OCCIG administers the Civil Monetary Penalty program.
Office of Executive Operations
OEO supports OIG by providing information resource management and systems security. OEO also coordinates OIG's budget, procurement, telecommunications, facilities, and human resources. In addition, OEO is the focal point for OIG's strategic planning function and the development and implementation of performance measures required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.