Social Security Disability Programs: SSA Could Take Steps to Improve Its Assessment of Continued Eligibility Page: 3 of 17
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Chairman Lankford, Ranking Member Speier, and Members of the
I am pleased to discuss our prior work on the Social Security
Administration's (SSA) efforts to assess Disability Insurance (DI) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients' continued medical
eligibility for benefits. In 2012, these disability programs provided $189
billion in cash benefits to 10.9 million DI recipients and 8 million SSI
recipients, including adults and children. Both the numbers of DI and SSI
recipients, as well as program costs, have grown in recent years, and
both are poised to grow further in the future because of economic and
population changes. Federal law, as well as SSA's regulations and
guidance, prescribe policies and procedures intended to ensure that only
those eligible to receive benefits do so. Both the initial determination of an
individual's medical eligibility at the time of application and assessments
conducted after benefits have been granted are key to ensuring the
integrity of these programs. Assessments of continued eligibility provide
an important check on program growth by removing ineligible recipients
from the rolls, even while new applicants are added. If these reviews are
not conducted in sufficient numbers, the agency will continue to struggle
to contain growth in benefit payments, placing added burden on already
strained federal resources. Over the years, the Congress has taken
actions to add requirements related to SSA's review of recipients'
continued medical eligibility for benefits. For example, beginning in 1982,
federal law required SSA to conduct certain continuing disability reviews
(CDRs) for this purpose, and since 1984, federal law has generally
required SSA to find substantial evidence demonstrating medical
improvement before ceasing a recipient's benefits-known as the medical
My remarks today are based on our prior work that found several factors
hindered SSA's efforts to assess disability program recipients' continued
medical eligibility for benefits. I will discuss (1) SSA's efforts to monitor DI
and SSI recipients' continued eligibility, and (2) factors associated with
the medical improvement standard that affect these efforts. This
information was drawn primarily from two reports we issued in 2006 and
2012, as well as a review of SSA's current related data we performed in
March and April 2014. Specifically, we updated selected information
related to SSA's CDR backlog, budget requests, and guidance for
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Social Security Disability Programs: SSA Could Take Steps to Improve Its Assessment of Continued Eligibility, text, April 9, 2014; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302682/m1/3/: accessed January 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.