The Social Security Administration is calling on private insurers that pay workers’ compensation as well as state and local agencies to report payments to the agency to help cut down on fraud and overpayments.
In a recent speech to the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, Carolyn Colvin, deputy administrator for the SSA, explained that funding shortages are forcing tough decisions to be made. The administration is trying to streamline income reporting to cut back on how long it takes to catch overpayments for Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs.
When the Social Security Administration waits for beneficiaries to report changes in their income, it can take too long and invites problems, Colvin said.
“By requiring plan administrators to provide payment information to us promptly, this proposal would improve the integrity of the [workers’ compensation] and [public disability benefit] reporting process, improve the accuracy of SSDI benefits and SSI payments, and lessen our reliance on the beneficiary to report this information,” she said.
The agency considers the goal of curbing improper payments to be key in the Social Security Administration’s strategic plan to “Preserve the Public’s Trust in Our Programs,” she told the subcommittee.
Funding issues are forcing the administration to do fewer continuing disability reviews and significantly fewer SSI redeterminations. The agency does SSI redeterminations on the nonmedical factors that make a beneficiary eligible for SSI. Since the agency has cut back on the number of reviews and redeterminations, it has needed to rely more on the strategic use of the processes and staff, she told the lawmakers.
By asking private insurers and state and local agencies to report income to the SSA, the reporting can trigger some reviews and increase the agency’s efficiency. In the past two years, the agency’s work to continue disability reviews has paid off. In about a third of the work, CDRs found that a disability had ceased and suspended benefits.
SSI redeterminations are up since 2007 after falling the five years before that. The numbers are up because funding increased for program integrity, she said. The increased funding has enabled the agency to improve SSI overpayment accuracy rates by almost four percent in three years.
Colvin asked members of the subcommittee to push for provisions in the President’s budget that would require employers to report wages quarterly. The more frequent the reporting, the easier it is for the agency to accurately distribute benefits, she said.
The Social Security Administration is working on new initiatives that could cut down on wasteful overpayments, disincentives to work and costly labor time to investigate payments.
The Work Incentives Simplification Pilot is a legislative proposal being considered by Congress that could replace well-intentioned but complicated laws meant to incentivize disability beneficiaries to return to work. The work incentives proved too burdensome for an agency already fighting funding cuts.
Carolyn Colvin, deputy administrator for the Social Security Administration spoke to the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Social Security in late January.
She explained that the new legislation could kill regulations like trial work periods and the extended period of eligibility that are overcomplicating the work of the administration.
The law now says people on Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, are on a sliding scale as they return to work. So, for every $2 an SSI beneficiary earns, $1 is removed from their SSI benefit, she said. Improper SSI payments happen when beneficiaries fail to notify the administration of new work, new assets or a raise or reduction in salary.
Each beneficiary is a different case with a different employer and a different income. Each case has to be individually handled, which often means contact with the employer. Most cases are complicated and require small bits of work and starting and stopping until enough information is gathered to make a decision, she said.
This type of work takes considerable expertise and training and the administration simply does not have the resources to do it well, she said.
There also are plenty of crossover beneficiaries who qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance C as many as 30 percent of SSI recipients also get SSDI between 18- and 64-years-old. Because the two programs are guided by two sets of rules, the labor for the Social Security Administration is overly burdensome, she said.
Officials hope the new WISP plan will address a disincentive to work by eliminating a beneficiary’s fear that if they get a job, they will lose their benefits.
The work incentive policies are difficult for beneficiaries to understand and for the administration to oversee, Colvin told the subcommittee.
The goal of WISP is to test some simplified work rules that would still be subject to tight evaluation. Officials hope the WISP will encourage people to work while reducing administrative costs, she said.
WISP also would count beneficiaries’ earnings when they are paid instead of when they are earned so that SSDI and SSI rules would be better aligned.
A qualified attorney can represent clients in Social Security cases to help make sure they fully explain their case.