From a recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
We reviewed a random sample of 250 Title II spousal or widow(er) beneficiaries to determine whether they reported their marriages to SSA while they were receiving Title XVI payments as single individuals. Of the 250 beneficiaries, we identified 41 who did not appear to have reported their marriages to SSA while they were receiving Title XVI payments and may have received improper Title XVI payments because of spousal income.
We referred these 41 beneficiaries to our Office of Investigations (OI) to investigate their living arrangements while they were receiving Title XVI payments. OI determined seven beneficiaries were not living with their spouses so were not overpaid, and one beneficiary had potentially committed fraud, resulting in a $104,998 overpayment.
OI did not pursue investigations on the remaining 33 beneficiaries because the potential overpayments were below the applicable U.S. Attorneys’ thresholds for prosecution and/or the periods of potential overpayment were outside the statute of limitations. Since OI did not pursue investigations, we referred these 33 beneficiaries to SSA to assess any overpayments. Of the 33 beneficiaries, SSA determined
22 were not living with their spouses so were not overpaid, and
for 7, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a review. For the remaining four beneficiaries, SSA’s review was ongoing as of July 2016.
Given that our audit did not identify a significant number of beneficiaries who were living with their spouses and overpaid while receiving Title XVI p ayments, we are not making a recommendation.Potentially, there are many people who would be affected if Social Security were to start trying to catch widows and widowers who failed to report marriages to the agency. There could be many overpayments and criminal prosecutions. Is Social Security willing to go there? Does Congress want them to? Is disability fraud the only fraud that Congress is interested in?