United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to Congressional Committees November 1999 SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME Incentive Payments Have Reduced Benefit Overpayments to Prisoners GAO/HEHS-00-2 United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Health, Education, and Human Services Division B-279541 November 22, 1999 The Honorable William V. Roth, Jr. Chairman The Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan Ranking Minority Member Committee on Finance United States Senate The Honorable Bill Archer Chairman The Honorable Charles B. Rangel Ranking Minority Member Committee on Ways and Means House of Representatives The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), is the largest cash assistance program in the United States. In 1998, SSI paid about $29 billion to needy aged, blind, or disabled individuals. People who are confined in prisons or correctional facilities for at least 1 full month are ineligible for SSI benefits. Despite this prohibition, SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and we have reported that SSA has paid millions of dollars of SSI benefits to ineligible inmates.1 In November 1995, SSA began a major effort to obtain commitments from correctional facilities to report inmate information. These efforts were extremely successful. We estimate that, by August 1996, SSA had obtained reporting commitments from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and about 4,500 of approximately 5,500 state and local correctional facilities. On August 22, 1996, federal welfare reform legislation provided SSA with a new way to identify ineligible prisoners receiving SSI. The legislation authorized SSA to contract with correctional facilities to pay them a maximum of $400 for timely information that resulted in suspension of an ineligible inmate’s benefits. The legislation required that we study and report on the impact of these incentive payments on the SSI program. Specifically, this report addresses the following questions: (1) How many correctional facilities signed 1 SSA, OIG, Effectiveness in Obtaining Records to Identify Prisoners (Washington, D.C.: SSA, May 1996) and Supplemental Security Income: SSA Efforts Fall Short in Correcting Erroneous Payments to Prisoners (GAO/HEHS-96-152, Aug. 30, 1996). Page 1 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 incentive payment agreements, how many suspensions did SSA make, and what amount of overpayments did SSA identify and prevent at these facilities; (2) how many of the incentive payment agreements represented new reporting commitments that SSA did not have before the authorization of incentive payments, and what were the results at facilities that made these new commitments; and (3) what other benefits has the legislation produced? We used SSA’s computerized data to identify facilities that signed incentive payment agreements with SSA and to determine the number of suspensions and amount of overpayments identified and prevented at those facilities. We also identified and quantified certain costs of implementing the incentive payment program. We discussed the incentive program with SSA officials and obtained their perspectives on other benefits of the legislation. We also sampled facilities that had agreed to provide data to SSA before signing incentive agreements to determine if these facilities improved their reporting practices after signing. We conducted our work between April 1998 and September 1999 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. (See app. I for a more detailed description of our scope and methodology.) Since the legislation was passed, SSA has signed incentive payment Results in Brief agreements with 3,115 correctional facilities. Between the date each facility signed an incentive payment agreement and November 27, 1998, the most recent date for which we have comprehensive data, SSA made a total of 39,137 SSI benefit suspensions at these facilities. By suspending benefits, SSA identified $32.1 million of potentially recoverable SSI overpayments that it had already made and prevented approximately $37.6 million in future erroneous SSI payments.2 SSA made incentive payments of almost $10 million to facilities, as required by the incentive agreements. As a result of the legislation, SSA now receives more prisoner information than before. Our analysis showed that 210 of the 3,115 incentive 2 A suspension, which is usually retroactive, results in the identification of an overpayment that SSA has already made, the prevention of subsequent overpayments, or both. For example, if a correctional facility notifies SSA in early July that an individual was confined in May, and that inmate is receiving SSI benefits, SSA suspends benefits effective June 1, because June is the first full month of confinement. This suspension involves stopping the August payment and beginning the process of collecting benefits paid erroneously in June and July. If the individual remains confined, the August payment and any subsequent benefits not paid because of the suspension are considered to be overpayments prevented. Page 2 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 agreements were new commitments; that is, 210 facilities had not agreed to provide inmate data to SSA before the incentive agreement legislation. At the facilities that made new commitments, SSA made 4,597 suspensions, identified about $3.3 million in overpayments that it had made to inmates, and prevented future overpayments of about $3.6 million. The legislation also produced other benefits. First, SSA made 871 suspensions, identified $1.4 million of past overpayments, and prevented about $1.6 million of future overpayments in SSA’s Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program and Disability Insurance (DI) program.3 Moreover, other federal and state assistance programs, such as the Food Stamp program, now have access to this enhanced inmate information, which may help them improve the accuracy of their payments. In addition, after signing the agreements, some correctional facilities began to report confinements more frequently and in an electronic format that SSA can process more efficiently. This resulted in prevention of at least $2.7 million in future overpayments. Finally, SSA developed several new computer systems to facilitate operations, improve the control and monitoring of facility reporting and prisoner suspensions, and account for incentive payments. SSA administers three of the nation’s largest benefit programs: SSI; OASI, also Background known as Social Security; and DI. Under SSI, the largest cash assistance program in the United States and the subject of this report, SSA provides cash assistance to needy individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled. Federal SSI benefits are funded by general revenues and are based on financial need. In 1998, SSA paid about $29 billion in SSI benefits. OASI provides monthly retirement benefits to workers and their dependents and survivors to protect them from the loss of wages resulting from retirement or death. DI provides monthly cash benefits to disabled workers and their families. OASI and DI are insurance programs funded through payroll taxes, and benefits are based on the contributions of individual workers and their employers. In 1995, the OASI and DI programs paid about $326 billion in benefits to about 43 million eligible beneficiaries. The Social Security Act provides that, under certain circumstances, prisoners are ineligible for SSI, OASI, or DI payments. Individuals are ineligible for SSI in any given month if throughout that month they are housed in a public institution. Individuals are ineligible for OASI and DI if they are confined in a correctional facility as a result of committing an 3 Under OASI and DI, prisoners are ineligible for benefits under certain conditions. Page 3 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 offense punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year. In the above cases, a confined recipient or a representative payee (an individual or organization that receives payments on behalf of SSI recipients who are unable to manage their own affairs) is required to report the confinement to SSA, so that benefits can be suspended. Despite the prohibitions in the act, ineligible prisoners have been receiving SSI, OASI, and DI benefits. In 1996, we reported that SSA had made $3.9 million in erroneous SSI payments to over 2,300 prisoners in the 12 county jail systems that we reviewed. Erroneous payments occurred because confinements were not reported by SSI beneficiaries, representative payees, or correctional facilities and because SSA’s efforts to periodically verify recipients’ continued eligibility for SSI were ineffective. Also in 1996, SSA’s OIG reported that SSA had achieved only limited success in obtaining prisoner information from federal, state, and local institutions and, as a result, had continued to make payments to ineligible inmates. SSA’s Efforts to Stop In November 1995, while our audit and that of the OIG were being Payments to Ineligible completed, SSA undertook a major effort to prevent erroneous payments to Prisoners prisoners. First, SSA formed a work group that focused exclusively on prisoner issues. Second, it established a regional prisoner coordinator in each SSA region to manage the effort at the field level. Third, SSA used its network of about 1,300 field offices to identify and contact correctional institutions and obtain commitments from them to report prisoner data. Fourth, in March 1996, the SSA Commissioner appealed to all federal and state penal institutions to send SSA a census of individuals who were confined in their facilities. By August 21, 1996, SSA had successfully negotiated reporting agreements with the Federal Bureau of Prisons covering 137 federal facilities and with about 4,500 of approximately 5,500 state and local correctional facilities. During the period from January 1, 1996, through August 21, 1996, SSA suspended the benefits of about 30,203 prisoners. As a result of these suspensions, SSA identified about $151 million in overpayments already made and prevented about $173 million in additional overpayments. The agreements included most state facilities, facilities in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and most large local facilities. Although most facilities began reporting, some reported on an irregular basis; in a less than timely manner; or on paper rather than computer disk or tape, thus making it more difficult for SSA to match files. Page 4 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 1996 Legislation On August 22, 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Authorizing Incentive Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) was enacted, authorizing SSA to enter Payments for Prisoner into incentive payment agreements with interested state and local correctional facilities in order to increase prison reporting to SSA.4 The Information agreement that SSA developed, and that must be in place before SSA pays a facility, includes several reporting provisions. For example, each month the facility must provide SSA with a computer tape, cartridge, or disk, in an SSA-prescribed format, showing new inmates’ names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and confinement dates. As part of the agreement, the facility must also complete a direct deposit form and agree to accept payment from SSA through direct deposit. Finally, the facility must show the names, Social Security numbers, and other information for its entire inmate population in its initial report. Under these agreements, SSA pays facilities for timely information that enables SSA to suspend ineligible prisoners’ SSI benefits. PRWORA authorizes SSA to make different levels of incentive payments on the basis of the timeliness of the data provided. SSA is authorized to pay $400 if it suspends SSI benefits on the basis of information provided within 30 days after a prisoner’s confinement. SSA is authorized to pay $200 if it suspends SSI benefits on the basis of information provided between 31 and 90 days after confinement. SSA is not authorized to pay for information received more than 90 days after confinement, even when it results in a suspension. After the enactment of PRWORA, SSA negotiated and signed incentive SSA Signed Incentive agreements with 3,115—almost 60 percent—of the approximately 5,500 Agreements With state and local correctional facilities nationwide. Between the time each Many Correctional facility signed its incentive agreement and November 27, 1998, SSA made about 39,000 SSI suspensions at these facilities. As a result of these Facilities and suspensions, SSA identified approximately $32 million in SSI overpayments Suspended Payments it had already made to inmates and prevented about $38 million in future overpayments. SSA made incentive payments to facilities of almost to Thousands of $10 million for the information they provided. Prisoners SSA Negotiated Incentive Beginning in early 1997, SSA personnel contacted state and local Agreements correctional facilities, including those that had already agreed to report prisoner data, and offered them the opportunity to sign the new incentive payment agreement. SSA signed incentive agreements with all 50 states, 4 Federal correctional facilities are not eligible for incentive payments. Page 5 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 covering most state-run facilities; the District of Columbia; all of the large local jail systems; and many of the smaller local jails. As of November 27, 1998, the most recent date for which we have data, we estimate that incentive agreements covered about 80 percent of all confined individuals. Although all 50 states and many local systems completed incentive agreements, not all signed immediately. About 66 percent of the states signed during the first 6 months; most others signed by March 1998. About 45 percent of the local facilities signed incentive agreements. According to SSA, there were two main reasons that 55 percent of the local facilities did not sign incentive agreements. First, in some cases the local facility would not have received the incentive payment directly. Rather, the payment would have gone into the county’s general fund or some other central treasury. Second, some facilities did not want to conform to the strict electronic reporting requirements outlined in the incentive agreement. According to SSA, some of these local jails do not have computers. The fact that many local facilities did not sign incentive agreements does not mean that these facilities are not providing inmate data to SSA. Many of these facilities have other types of reporting agreements under which they provide data to SSA but do not receive incentive payments. There are, however, a limited number of facilities that do not report. (See app. II for information on other agreements that SSA has made with correctional facilities and a summary of all SSA reporting agreements by state.) SSA Made Suspensions, Between the time each facility signed its incentive agreement and Identified Potentially November 27, 1998, SSA made 39,137 SSI suspensions at the 3,115 facilities Recoverable with incentive payment agreements. SSA made about 25 percent of the suspensions at state-run facilities and about 75 percent at local facilities. Overpayments, and California, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, and Texas together Prevented Future accounted for almost half of all suspensions. (See app. III for a summary Overpayments of SSI suspensions by state and agreement type.) As a result of these suspensions, SSA identified $32.1 million of potentially recoverable overpayments it had already made. It is important that SSA identify overpayments to prisoners so that it can initiate the various mechanisms available to collect them. These mechanisms include (1) withholding all or a portion of the legitimate monthly SSI benefits of a former inmate who has reestablished eligibility for SSI benefits, (2) withholding a portion of a former prisoner’s OASI or DI benefits, and (3) withholding an individual’s income tax refund. Finally, if SSA is Page 6 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 unsuccessful in collecting an overpayment despite making all reasonable efforts to do so, the agency may refer the overpayment to the Department of Justice for recovery through civil action. More importantly, perhaps, the suspension of inmates’ SSI benefits also prevented about $37.6 million in future overpayments. Preventing overpayments is obviously far more effective than detecting those already made because the government does not incur a monetary loss that must be collected from the inmate. For example, when an overpayment is made, the government may not be able to collect all of the money owed by the inmate. Even if the overpayment is recovered through one of the various mechanisms described above, the government incurs certain administrative costs related to the recovery and loses the interest on the investment of the outstanding overpayment until it is recovered. Further, preventing overpayments maintains program integrity and, in turn, promotes public trust in the program. States Received Varying Between March 7, 1997, and November 27, 1998, SSA made incentive Amounts of Incentive payments totaling about $10 million (see table 1). About 80 percent of the Payments payments were for the maximum $400, indicating that correctional facilities provided information to SSA within 30 days of the individual’s confinement. The remaining 20 percent were for $200. About 80 percent of the payments went to local correctional facilities, and about 20 percent went to state facilities. Table 1 shows that six states received no incentive payments. We discussed this situation with SSA officials and identified two main reasons for this: three states were unable to provide data in the reporting format that SSA requires, and three others did not complete the required direct deposit form advising SSA where to deposit the payments. Page 7 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 Table 1: Incentive Payments to State and Local Correctional Facilities, Amount paid to Amount paid to March 7, 1997-November 27,1998 State state locality Total Alabama $1,800 $86,000 $87,800 a Alaska 35,600 35,600 Arizona 10,400 166,200 176,600 Arkansas 56,200 132,800 189,000 California 280,800 1,406,600 1,687,400 Colorado 5,400 62,800 68,200 a Connecticut 226,800 226,800 a Delaware 23,200 23,200 a District of Columbia 200 200 Florida 34,800 485,400 520,200 Georgia 40,200 142,400 182,600 Guam 0 0 0 a Hawaii 40,800 40,800 Idaho 7,000 11,800 18,800 Illinois 27,200 154,000 181,200 Indiana 56,400 89,400 145,800 Iowa 0 44,800 44,800 Kansas 0 52,200 52,200 Kentucky 4,000 294,200 298,200 Louisiana 123,200 503,000 626,200 Maine 7,000 55,000 62,000 Maryland 5,800 34,600 40,400 Massachusetts 94,000 319,200 413,200 Michigan 49,200 304,200 353,400 Minnesota 45,200 17,000 62,200 Mississippi 40,400 81,200 121,600 Missouri 11,000 146,400 157,400 Montana 2,200 6,000 8,200 Nebraska 0 2,400 2,400 Nevada 0 4,800 4,800 New Hampshire 7,000 40,800 47,800 New Jersey 27,800 347,600 375,400 New Mexico 12,800 40,400 53,200 New York 164,000 960,400 1,124,400 North Carolina 36,800 53,400 90,200 North Dakota 1,400 3,200 4,600 Ohio 40,200 452,400 492,600 (continued) Page 8 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 Amount paid to Amount paid to State state locality Total Oklahoma 13,000 26,200 39,200 Oregon 7,600 24,600 32,200 Pennsylvania 0 175,600 175,600 Puerto Rico 0 0 0 a Rhode Island 99,000 99,000 South Carolina 90,000 62,400 152,400 South Dakota 1,400 2,800 4,200 Tennessee 6,200 184,000 190,200 Texas 165,000 426,000 591,000 Utah 600 11,400 12,000 a Vermont 0 0 Virginia 15,600 54,400 70,000 Washington 42,400 46,600 89,000 West Virginia 800 30,400 31,200 Wisconsin 48,800 176,200 225,000 Wyoming 200 0 200 Total $2,009,400 $7,721,200 $9,730,600 a This state has an integrated state/county prison system; the entire incentive amount, if any, is reported in the state column. A total of 210 of the 3,115 incentive agreements were new commitments by Legislation Prompted facilities that had not agreed to provide data to SSA before PRWORA. These Some Facilities to 210 facilities provided SSA with information that prompted the agency to Agree to Provide make 4,597 of the 39,137 total SSI suspensions under incentive agreements. Information from these facilities accounted for $3.3 million of the Prisoner Data for the $32.1 million of overpayments identified, and $3.6 million of the First Time $37.6 million of overpayments prevented. Without the incentive payment legislation, these facilities might not have reported their prisoner data to SSA. The incentive payment program has resulted in several benefits beyond Incentive Program additional SSI suspensions, overpayments identified, and overpayments Has Produced Other prevented. Specifically, SSA now also uses information it receives under Benefits incentive agreements to suspend benefits, identify overpayments, and prevent future overpayments in its OASI and DI programs. SSA also makes prisoner information available to other federal and state assistance Page 9 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 programs to help them control their payments. Further, some state and local facilities report more frequently or more efficiently than they did before signing incentive agreements. Finally, SSA has developed several new computer systems to facilitate operations, improve the control and monitoring of facility reporting and prisoner suspensions, and account for incentive payments. SSA Puts SSI Inmate PRWORA authorizes SSA to provide information it obtains under the Information to Other Uses incentive payment agreements to any federal or federally assisted cash, food, or medical assistance program for eligibility determination purposes. SSA used information it received under new incentive agreements to suspend the OASI and DI benefits of 871 recipients. As a result of these suspensions, SSA identified almost $1.4 million in overpayments it had already made and prevented almost $1.6 million of additional OASI and DI overpayments. SSAalso makes selected prisoner information available to states for their use in controlling Food Stamp program benefits. In addition, SSA is negotiating to establish sharing agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education in order to help those agencies control their payments. Some State and Local According to SSA, before incentive payment agreements, all states, the Correctional Facilities District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were reporting information to SSA. Have Improved Their Most were reporting monthly, some quarterly, and some only sporadically. In addition, some states and many of the larger local facilities were Reporting reporting on paper, which is difficult for SSA to process, rather than diskette or computer tape. SSA staff told us that, in some cases, after facilities signed incentive agreements they began reporting more frequently and in electronic format, rather than on paper. To determine the extent of reporting improvement, we reviewed a sample of 69 reporters5 consisting of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 17 of the 25 largest county jail systems. We determined that 23 of the 69 improved their reporting frequency. For example, some began reporting monthly rather than quarterly or semiannually or, if not monthly, then more frequently than they had before signing the incentive agreement. We estimated that as a result of this more frequent reporting, 5 A reporter may report for one or more facilities. For example, a state department of corrections may report for all state prisons. Page 10 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 SSA identified ineligible inmates earlier and prevented about $2.7 million of overpayments at the facilities we sampled. Although we did not sample small local facilities, we assume that some of these began reporting more frequently after signing an incentive agreement and that, as a result, SSA prevented overpayments at these facilities also. In addition, seven states that were reporting inmate data to SSA on paper changed to some form of electronic reporting after signing the agreement, which has reduced SSA’s costs for operating the matches and speeded up the suspension process. SSA Has Improved Its Before implementing incentive payments, SSA was not effectively Monitoring and Control of monitoring and controlling prisoner agreements or prisoner data. For Prisoner Data example, SSA did not renegotiate several state agreements in a timely manner, did not have procedures to determine if it received prisoner information in accordance with the terms of its agreements, and did not have controls that provided reasonable assurance that inmate information it received was processed in a timely manner. In conjunction with implementing incentive payments, SSA developed the Incarceration Report Control System and the Prisoner Update Processing System. These systems have improved monitoring and control of reporting agreements and prisoner information. The first system contains information about reporting agreements, reporters, facilities, details of reports received, and information on incentive payments. This system continuously reviews the information it contains and alerts the appropriate units in SSA when a reporting agreement needs to be renegotiated, or when a reporter does not provide inmate data as specified in the agreement. The Prisoner Update Processing System contains information on inmates. It uses this information to identify inmates who are receiving benefits and alerts the appropriate SSA field office when a suspension may be warranted. This system also periodically determines if action has been taken on the initial alerts and, if not, issues follow-up alerts. The incentive payment legislation has produced significant benefits. SSA Conclusions now receives prisoner information from 210 additional facilities, which has resulted in the prevention of about $3.6 million in future erroneous payments and the identification of approximately $3.3 million of potentially recoverable overpayments SSA has already made. In some cases, SSA now also receives prisoner data more frequently and in a more usable format from facilities that had been reporting data before the Page 11 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments B-279541 legislation. As a result, SSA has been able to prevent $2.7 million in erroneous SSI payments at the facilities we sampled. In its OASI and DI programs, SSA has prevented $1.6 million in erroneous payments and identified $1.4 million of potentially recoverable overpayments. In addition, SSA has developed new electronic monitoring and control systems for inmate data and makes these data available to other federal and state agencies. Some might argue that the program’s cost of $10 million is high in relation to the savings realized. Most institutions reporting prisoner data today did so prior to the incentive program and might have continued to do so without financial incentive. Nonetheless, the benefits described above are important outcomes that are likely to enhance the operation of the SSI program and other federal programs for years to come. We obtained comments on a draft of this report from the Commissioner of Agency Comments Social Security, who concurred with our findings. See appendix IV for the full text of SSA’s comments. We are sending copies of this report to the Honorable Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security, and other interested parties. We will also make copies available to others on request. If you or your staff have any questions regarding this report, please contact me at (202) 512-7215 or Roland H. Miller at (202) 512-7246. Harry Johnson, Joan Vogel, and Dennis Gehley also made key contributions to this assignment. Barbara D. Bovbjerg Associate Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues Page 12 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Page 13 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Contents Letter 1 Appendix I 16 Facilities With Incentive Agreements 16 Scope and Facilities That Initially Did Not Agree to Provide Data to SSA but 16 Methodology Eventually Signed Incentive Agreements Suspensions, Overpayments Identified, and Overpayments 17 Prevented Reporting Practices 17 Amount of Incentive Payments 17 Appendix II 18 Some SSI Recipients Report Confinements Themselves 20 SSA’s Other Reporting Agreements Appendix III 21 Summary of SSI Suspensions by State and Agreement Type Appendix IV 23 Comments From the Social Security Administration Tables Table 1: Incentive Payments to State and Local Correctional 8 Facilities, March 7, 1997-November 27,1998 Table II.1: Summary of SSA Reporting Agreements by State 19 Page 14 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Contents Abbreviations DI Disability Insurance IRCS Incarceration Report Control System OASI Old Age and Survivors Insurance OIG Office of the Inspector General PRWORA Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 PUPS Prisoner Update Processing System ROAR Recovery of Overpayments, Accounting and Reporting System SSA Social Security Administration SSI Supplemental Security Income Page 15 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix I Scope and Methodology To measure the impact of the incentive payment legislation, we identified all state and local facilities that signed incentive payment agreements with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the suspensions, overpayments identified, and overpayments prevented after signing the agreements. We also determined the results of agreements reached with facilities that had not agreed to provide data to SSA until after incentives were authorized. In addition, we sampled facilities that had previously agreed to provide data to SSA to determine if incentive agreements affected these facilities’ reporting practices and, in turn, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. We relied heavily on SSA’s various computer systems for most of our information, but we did not independently verify SSA’s databases. We also discussed the incentive program with SSA officials to obtain their perspective on the impact of the legislation. We used SSA’s Incarceration Report Control System (IRCS) to identify Facilities With facilities with incentive agreements. IRCS, a central computer system that Incentive Agreements was implemented after incentive payments were authorized, contains information about correctional facilities. In addition to descriptive information (name, address, facility contact, and so on), IRCS also shows the type of agreement SSA has with a facility, the date the agreement was signed, how often the facility has reported, and details about the reports received. IRCS also contains information about facilities that do not provide data to SSA, including the reasons for their not reporting. Some facilities are included in IRCS more than once, and in some cases the agreement information associated with those facilities is inconsistent. We spent a considerable amount of time eliminating duplicates from the database. However, when we could not determine which of the duplicates to eliminate, we asked SSA’s field offices to clarify the situation for us. To identify these facilities, we determined their agreement status before Facilities That Initially incentive payments and compared it with the agreement status on Did Not Agree to November 27, 1998. To determine a facility’s agreement status before Provide Data to SSA incentive payments, we combined information from several different SSA sources. SSA field offices had negotiated agreements with correctional but Eventually Signed facilities and sent copies of those agreements to SSA headquarters. We used Incentive Agreements this information to establish our initial baseline data on agreements. We supplemented our initial baseline data with information from IRCS. Although IRCS was established after incentive payments were authorized, SSA had loaded IRCS with information on agreements that existed prior to the legislation, and some of that information remains in the system. Page 16 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix I Scope and Methodology Finally, we asked SSA’s field offices to review the agreement information we developed and verify its accuracy. We obtained suspension information from SSA’s Prisoner Update Suspensions, Processing System (PUPS), which identifies suspended inmates, the Overpayments facilities where the individuals are confined, confinement dates, the type Identified, and of benefit(s) suspended, and suspension dates. We obtained overpayment information from SSA’s Recovery of Overpayments, Accounting and Overpayments Reporting System (ROAR). ROAR controls the overpayments recovery and Prevented collection activity of the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) programs as well as the portion of SSI overpayments being withheld from title II benefits through cross-program recovery. We estimated the amount of overpayments prevented by using information from PUPS and two databases: the Supplemental Security Record and the Master Beneficiary Record. These two databases show the monthly benefits the individual was receiving when he or she went to prison, and PUPS provides the information noted above as well as data on actual or estimated release dates. SSA officials told us that facilities that were reporting data to SSA before the Reporting Practices legislation reported more frequently and in a more efficient format after they signed incentive agreements. We used various SSA internal reports that were prepared during calendar year 1996 to determine how often and in what format (for example, paper, computer tape, disk, or fax) facilities were reporting to SSA before incentive payments. We compared the preincentive reporting data with postincentive reporting data that we obtained from IRCS and from various other SSA records to determine if reporting practices had changed. We used PUPS to determine the amount of incentive payments that SSA Amount of Incentive made to correctional facilities. PUPS calculates a facility’s incentive Payments payment after it determines that the facility has met all the requirements necessary to receive the payment. PUPS also maintains a record of these payments. Page 17 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix II SSA’s Other Reporting Agreements SSA has nonincentive agreements with the Department of Justice, covering federal correctional facilities, and with 1,742 state and local correctional facilities. Under these agreements, facilities provide prisoner information to SSA, but SSA does not pay them for it. Many of the 1,742 state and local facilities report under agreements they made with SSA before the Congress authorized incentives. Some of these agreements are memorandums of understanding, some are letters from correctional facilities agreeing to report data and documenting their reporting procedures, and some are verbal agreements. Under these agreements, facilities have latitude in the amount of information they provide and the way they provide it. Most facilities have agreed to provide data monthly directly to the field office. Reports may be made by mail, phone, or fax or may be hand-delivered. SSA processes the data and suspends SSI benefits when appropriate but does not pay the facilities. Between March 7, 1997, and November 27, 1998, for the 1,742 facilities with nonincentive agreements, SSA made 8,316 SSI suspensions, identified $6.4 million in overpayments, and prevented $6.8 million of additional SSI overpayments. In addition, SSA made 4,324 OASI/DI suspensions, identified $9.8 million in OASI/DI overpayments it had already made, and prevented $10.6 million of future OASI/DI overpayments. A total of 666 facilities do not provide any prisoner data to SSA, and in most cases it would not be appropriate for them to do so. According to SSA’s records, 446 facilities (67 percent) do not provide inmate data because they hold inmates for less than 1 full month. A full month is the minimum time that an SSI beneficiary must be confined before SSA can suspend benefits. The other 220 facilities do not provide data for a variety of reasons: 74 claim they lack the resources to assemble and provide prisoner data to SSA; 58 facilities, mostly juvenile, cite privacy laws that prohibit them from providing juveniles’ names; and 88 facilities simply refuse to cooperate. Table II.1 shows SSA reporting agreements by state. Page 18 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix II SSA’s Other Reporting Agreements Table II.1: Summary of SSA Reporting Agreements by State Incentive Nonincentive Statea agreement agreement No agreement Alabama 85 35 29 Alaska 60 0 0 American Samoa 0 0 1 Arizona 25 11 17 Arkansas 75 24 31 California 109 40 11 Colorado 30 51 50 Connecticut 21 0 2 Delaware 8 0 0 District of Columbia 4 1 0 Florida 236 55 2 Georgia 174 91 13 Guam 0 1 0 Hawaii 8 1 0 Idaho 25 20 12 Illinois 97 60 35 Indiana 64 55 8 Iowa 10 87 8 Kansas 5 92 10 Kentucky 91 24 8 Louisiana 109 15 49 Maine 22 5 0 Marianas 0 0 1 Maryland 58 13 1 Massachusetts 35 17 1 Michigan 123 24 13 Minnesota 31 52 8 Mississippi 94 46 5 Missouri 39 83 3 Montana 14 37 18 Nebraska 11 53 7 Nevada 4 30 5 New Hampshire 14 3 1 New Jersey 49 5 0 New Mexico 38 9 10 New York 131 42 6 North Carolina 131 58 11 (continued) Page 19 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix II SSA’s Other Reporting Agreements Incentive Nonincentive Statea agreement agreement No agreement North Dakota 5 16 12 Ohio 200 42 25 Oklahoma 96 17 52 Oregon 20 23 19 Pennsylvania 45 59 0 Puerto Rico 0 38 0 Rhode Island 1 2 0 South Carolina 71 72 6 South Dakota 18 13 13 Tennessee 131 25 4 Texas 247 115 131 Utah 7 15 12 Vermont 0 9 0 Virginia 98 50 0 Virgin Islands 0 3 0 Washington 47 24 13 West Virginia 18 22 0 Wisconsin 79 29 1 Wyoming 2 28 2 Total 3,115 1,742 666 a Also included are American Samoa; Guam; the Marianas; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands; and the District of Columbia. SSI recipients (or their representative payees) are responsible for reporting Some SSI Recipients confinements to SSA. Although self-reporting does not appear to be the Report Confinements norm, on the basis of reports from recipients, SSA made 5,736 SSI Themselves suspensions, identified $1.1 million in SSI overpayments, and prevented $1.3 million of future SSI overpayments between March 7, 1997, and November 27, 1998. In addition, SSA made 3,915 suspensions, identified $1.3 million in OASI/DI overpayments it had already made, and prevented $2.2 million of additional OASI/DI overpayments on the basis of beneficiary reports. Page 20 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix III Summary of SSI Suspensions by State and Agreement Type SSI suspensions at facilities SSI suspensions at facilities with without incentive agreements incentive Total SSI Statea State Local Total agreements suspensions Alabama 162 397 559 71 630 Alaska 112 0 112 0 112 Arizona 54 520 574 119 693 Arkansas 167 511 678 71 749 California 888 6,762 7,650 497 8,147 Colorado 34 210 244 133 377 Connecticut 795 0 795 0 795 Delaware 101 0 101 0 101 District of Columbia 10 0 10 0 10 Florida 413 1,605 2,018 865 2,883 Georgia 220 601 821 158 979 Hawaii 184 0 184 0 184 Idaho 35 43 78 45 123 Illinois 165 819 984 322 1,306 Indiana 190 286 476 396 872 Iowa 0 165 165 201 366 Kansas 0 174 174 318 492 Kentucky 123 989 1,112 91 1,203 Louisiana 525 1,652 2,177 38 2,215 Maine 18 182 200 10 210 Maryland 50 154 204 25 229 Massachusetts 334 1,070 1,404 45 1,449 Michigan 248 1,049 1,297 324 1,621 Minnesota 133 63 196 256 452 Mississippi 79 360 439 250 689 Missouri 46 488 534 386 920 Montana 9 23 32 63 95 Nebraska 0 10 10 87 97 Nevada 0 19 19 144 163 New Hampshire 27 163 190 1 191 New Jersey 290 1,028 1,318 96 1,414 New Mexico 51 153 204 60 264 New York 456 3,473 3,929 447 4,376 North Carolina 412 183 595 183 778 (continued) Page 21 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix III Summary of SSI Suspensions by State and Agreement Type SSI suspensions at facilities SSI suspensions at facilities with without incentive agreements incentive Total SSI Statea State Local Total agreements suspensions North Dakota 10 9 19 6 25 Ohio 548 1,593 2,141 205 2,346 Oklahoma 88 90 178 49 227 Oregon 39 86 125 99 224 Pennsylvania 0 1,061 1,061 1,009 2,070 Puerto Rico 0 0 0 3 3 Rhode Island 299 0 299 9 308 South Carolina 243 266 509 64 573 South Dakota 17 13 30 9 39 Tennessee 31 661 692 58 750 Texas 1,071 1,535 2,606 255 2,861 Utah 34 13 47 16 63 Vermont 0 0 0 69 69 Virginia 175 492 667 111 778 Washington 139 204 343 112 455 West Virginia 14 100 114 63 177 Wisconsin 186 635 821 159 980 Wyoming 2 0 2 35 37 b Unknown 0 0 0 283 283 Total 9,227 29,910 39,137 8,316 47,453 Note: The 5,736 suspensions due to self-reporting are not included. a Also included are Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. b The information we had did not identify the location of the facility where the SSI recipient was confined. Page 22 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Appendix IV Comments From the Social Security Administration (207033) Page 23 GAO/HEHS-00-2 Impact of Prisoner Incentive Payments Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office P.O. Box 37050 Washington, DC 20013 or visit: Room 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW) U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000 or by using fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537. Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and testimony. 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Supplemental Security Income: Incentive Payments Have Reduced Benefit Overpayments to Prisoners
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-11-22.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)