Supplemental Security Income: Action Needed on Long-Standing Problems Affecting Program Integrity: HEHS-98-158

September 1998
GAO Reports;9/14/1998, p1
Government Documents
The supplemental security income (SSI) program is the nation's largest cash assistance program for the poor, paying more than $25 billion to aged, blind, and disabled recipients in 1996. Reports in the media and by oversight agencies have highlighted program abuses and mismanagement, increasing SSI overpayments, and the Social Security Administration's (SSA) inability to recover outstanding SSI debt. These and other problems have provoked congressional criticism of SSA's management of SSI workloads and have reinforced public perceptions that SSA pays SSI benefits to too many people for too long. To a great extent, SSA's inability to address its most significant long-standing SSI problems is attributable to two causes: (1) an organizational culture or value system that places a greater priority on processing and paying claims than on controlling program expenditures and (2) SSA's reluctance to fulfill its policy development and planning role in advance of major program crises. Reversing this situation will require sustained and expanded attention to developing and promoting tighter payment controls, increasing SSA's role in SSI research and policy formulation, and a willingness to define a long-term vision and strategy for improving program performance.


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