From a recent report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
An OASDI [Old Age, Survivor's and Disability Insurance] underpayment accrues when a beneficiary is due a partial or full monthly benefit amount that has not been paid. SSA’s automated systems should detect and process most underpayments due living beneficiaries. However, when SSA’s systems cannot process these underpayments, SSA employees must manually issue them. Further, SSA employees must manually process all underpayments due deceased beneficiaries.
Manually issued OASDI underpayments of $6,000 or more require a secondary review. However, SSA policy does not require a secondary review of manually issued underpayments less than $6,000. ...
Of the 250 sampled underpayments, SSA issued 62 (25 percent) incorrectly, with payment errors totaling $90,235. Specifically, SSA employees issued
- 45 underpayments totaling $69,348 more than what was due the beneficiaries — we project SSA issued 187,620 underpayments totaling approximately $289 million more than what was due and
- 17 underpayments totaling $20,887 less than what was due the beneficiaries — we project that for 70,880 underpayments, SSA did not issue approximately $87 million that was due.
You might think that the solution would be to just require supervisory approval of all underpayments but there are two problems with this. First, it would require more staff time and the agency lacks the personnel to get its current workload done. Second, supervisory approval would only get you so far. Supervisors also make mistakes, especially when they're overworked.
If you want better performance from Social Security, you're going to have to give the agency additional operating funds.