Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a program that provides monthly benefits (also known as Social Security benefits) to qualified individuals who are retired or disabled. The dependents of eligible beneficiaries, as well as the surviving dependents of deceased workers, can also receive monthly benefits. Employees and their employers and self-employed workers fund Social Security benefits through Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes or Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) taxes. These tax revenues are held in the Social Security trust funds to pay benefits.

Agency Accountable Official: Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner

Total Payments
Improper Payments
Improper Payment Rate

Supplemental Measures

Current Measure: Please see the Description section for more details.

Target: Not Applicable

Description: Because this high-error program’s accuracy rates have consistently performed well, exceeding 99.5%, the program was not required to develop supplemental measures. Regardless, the program remains focused on continuous improvement and is exploring ways to eliminate root causes of error.

Update Frequency: Not Applicable

Data Current as of: November 30, 2016

Program Comments

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is committed to making accurate benefit payments. The administration strives to balance increasing retirement and disability workloads with program integrity activities to ensure that beneficiaries of retirement, survivors, and disability benefits meet eligibility requirements.

To determine payment accuracy, SSA samples program beneficiaries to make certain they are being paid correctly. SSA uses statistically valid sampling to determine the program's payment accuracy rates.

The RSDI program accuracy rates, for both overpayments and underpayments, have consistently exceeded 99.5%. The administration attributes this success to longstanding business practices. For example, SSA conducts a variety of electronic matches with federal, state, and local agencies to validate records and provide information that could affect an individual’s payment amount or ongoing eligibility for benefits. The primary reasons that overpayments occur are that disabled beneficiaries who return to work frequently fail to advise SSA of their changed status and internal delays in processing work information. To address these issues, SSA is exploring ways to provide automated and early notification.

SSA aggressively pursues recovery of improper payments as soon as they are detected. SSA recovered about $2.05 billion in program debt in Fiscal Year 2016 and $10.64 billion over a 5-year period (2012 – 2016). SSA achieves these collections through a variety of debt collection tools, including internal agency processes and external techniques.

SSA’s administrative cost to recover overpayments is $.07 for every $1 collected.  Additional information on the program is also provided annually in the Agency Financial Report.