(CNSNews.com) -- The Social Security Administration (SSA) improperly paid an estimated $1 million in disability benefits between 2000 and 2010 to criminals in prison, according to an Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report entitled Special Disability Workload Payments Made to Incarcerated Beneficiaries.
"We estimate SSA overpaid about $1 million 400 beneficiaries with periods of conviction and incarceration," said the IG report.
In its investigation, the OIG identified 1,761 people receiving disability who had “conviction and confinement data” in the previous 10 years.
“From the 1,761, we randomly selected and reviewed a sample of 100 beneficiaries to determine whether SSA paid DI benefits for periods when they were convicted and confined in correctional institutions,” the report states. (See OIG Special Disability Workload Payments Made to Incarcerated Benficiaries.pdf)
"Of the 100 sample cases we reviewed, SSA appropriately took action to suspend DI benefit payments for 75 beneficiaries who had periods of conviction and incarceration, but overpaid DI benefits to the remaining 25 sample beneficiaries," said the report. "Based on this sample, we estimate SSA overpaid about $1 million to 440 beneficiaries.”
“We estimate SSA overpaid about $879,000 in DI benefits to about 317 beneficiaries who had periods of conviction and incarceration and about $143,000 in DI benefits to 123 beneficiaries for periods when SSI payments were suspended,” said the report. (See OIG Special Disability Workload Payments Made to Incarcerated Benficiaries.pdf)
Combined, this means SSA overpaid an estimated $1,022,000 to the 440 people in question.
In an e-mail to CNSNews.com, SSA Public Affairs Specialist Andrew M. Cannarsa explained that given the way the investigation and calculations were done, "we are 90% confident that the true amount of our findings ranges somewhere in between $209,811 (statistical lower limit) and $1,547,491 (statistical upper limit)."
The average of those two estimates is $878,651, or about $879,000--the "statistical point estimate, which means it's the quantity that we project we would find in a given population based on our sample findings," said Cannarsa.
The SSA public affairs office told CNSNews.com the improper payments were made because the federal database on incarceration--Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS)--"was not always accurate."
Before the SSA suspends benefits, said Cannarsa, "it contacts officials in the Departments of Corrections, county, and/or local jails to verify beneficiaries' conviction and confinement periods; but staff did not make these contacts for the SDW beneficiaries that were the focus of the audit report."
Cannarsa further explained that there is no need for SSA to put in place more procedures to ensure improper payments do not re-occur "because these improper payments were only made to individuals [who] became eligible for Title II benefits before January 1, 2000."
Now, "SSA's systems generate an alert for SSI recipients who became eligible or will become eligible for Title II benefits after that date [Jan. 1, 2000]," said Cannarsa in an e-mail. "Because this specific type of overpayment will not re-occur, we did not recommend that SSA put into place any additional procedures."