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Brady, Buchanan: New GAO Report Reveals Further Challenges in the SSI Program

September 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report requested by Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) on households with multiple individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to better understand the makeup of these households. Despite the program’s focus on serving low-income seniors, the blind, and the disabled, the report found that SSI could be having unintended consequences on a person’s decision to marry or report a marriage. Current law sets the maximum SSI benefit married couples can receive at a combined payment of $1100 per month and the maximum SSI benefit for individuals at $733 per month. The new GAO report raises concerns about the reporting of marriages by SSI recipients and the increased risk for improper and fraudulent payments.

The report specifically highlights two challenges within the SSI program:

  1. The most common multi-recipient households were two or more adults reporting to be in the same family, yet few reported that they were married couples. This raises questions about the financial disincentives of marriage and the program’s reliance on self-reported marital status.
  2. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is ill-equipped to effectively determine and process the marital status of SSI recipients, and therefore increases the risk of furthering the program’s $4.8 billion in annual improper payments.

Upon the report’s release, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said:

“This report is further proof that our nation’s anti-poverty efforts discourage practices proven to promote economic stability, such as marriage. With more than 43 million Americans living in poverty, House Republicans are proposing a ‘Better Way.’ Our policies would help low-income Americans create a stable family by promoting, not punishing, marriage—a key ingredient to escaping the cycle of poverty and moving up the economic ladder.”  

Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Buchanan added:

Insufficient oversight and complicated rules within the Supplemental Security Income program are allowing billions of dollars to be improperly paid each year, and the Social Security Administration’s inaction jeopardizes vital resources for seniors and those with disabilities who truly need access to these important benefits.”

CLICK HERE to read the full GAO report.