I'll explain below but this is just awful. It's no surprise to me but it's still awful. From a recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
We continue to find that SSA [Social Security Administration] needs to improve controls to ensure it accurately and timely pays OASDI [Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance] benefits withheld pending a windfall offset determination. We estimate thatLet me explain. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are based, in major part, on how much income you had during a month. What about months in which you are approved after the fact for both SSI and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) which are not based upon income? You didn't receive the DIB at the time but the law requires that the SSI benefits be reduced as if you had. That's the Windfall Offset. It may not sound that complicated but it is. It's been an enormous mess for Social Security even since it was enacted. The agency has made two separate efforts to implement software to automate the windfall offset. Both were expensive failures. My recollection is that the cost of the last software failure was over $100 million. The process remains a thorn in Social Security's side. It involves co-ordination between Social Security field offices where SSI benefits are computed and authorized and Social Security payment centers where DIB is computed and authorized. The process is tedious and highly error prone as this report shows. How error prone? So error prone that even after OIG pointed out that the agency had made a mistake, that half the time the agency still failed to correct the mistake! Note that the mistake is always to fail to pay claimants all the money they're due in a timely manner.
In addition, SSA incorrectly processed the windfall offset determinations for five beneficiaries. As a result, SSA improperly withheld $12,775 in OASDI benefits for these beneficiaries. Finally, SSA did not take corrective actions for 50.6 percent of the beneficiaries we identified during our 2011 audit.
- 13,141 beneficiaries’ windfall offset actions were not processed and therefore SSA withheld about $113.2 million in OASDI benefits, of which we estimate approximately $ 71.9 million was payable to these beneficiaries, and
- 19,587 beneficiaries’ windfall offset actions were correctly processed but not in a timely manner; therefore, these beneficiaries did not promptly receive about $195.2 million in OASDI ben efits .
I think that agency management has long since thrown up its hands and decided not to even bother to try to improve the situation. Why bother? It's only the claimants that are being hurt. This Congress won't complain about that. Even past Democratic Congresses didn't complain because they didn't understand the problem.
If you think this is all way too technical to bother thinking about, look at the charts below. Over half the time, Social Security fouls up the windfall offset. Once they foul it up it's often years before they get it straightened out, if they ever do.