The Social Security Administration gave $1 billion in benefits to people who didn’t have a Social Security Number (SSN), according to a new audit.
The agency’s inspector general discovered errors in the government’s documentation for Social Security recipients, otherwise known as people who get retirement or disability payments for a person who can’t manage the benefits themselves.
Over the last 10 years, the agency gave $1 billion to 22,426 representative payees who “did not have an SSN, and SSA had not followed its policy to retain the paper application.”
“Furthermore, unless it takes corrective action, we estimate SSA will pay about $182.5 million in benefits, annually, to representative payees who do not have an SSN or paper application supporting their selection,” the inspector general stated.
The inspector general also realized the agency gave $853.1 million in benefits since 2004 to people who had been removed as representative payees by the agency.
The inspector general stated that the errors happened because the agency didn’t keep paper applications supporting an individual’s case to get benefits on for someone else and didn’t update its system if their status was ended.
Only six percent of representative payees even had SSNs that were recorded properly, based on the audit’s sample size of 100 beneficiaries.
Government benefits are also being given to illegal aliens via the representative payee system. 17 percent of representative payees sampled didn’t have an SSN recorded because they were illegal aliens, the inspector general said.
Illegal aliens without SSNs are able to receive benefits from the government when they are acting as representatives for their minor children. This leads to the debate over ‘anchor babies’ and whether that is a good policy for our country’s taxpaying citizens.
Responding to the audit, the SSA said it changed to a new Electronic Representative Payee System in 2016, and transferring representative payee information “may have resulted in applications showing as terminated or not selected.”
The government defended the giving of benefits to noncitizens and individuals without an SSN.
“Representative payees play a significant role in many beneficiaries’ lives,” the SSA stated. “We have approximately 5.7 million representative payees managing annual benefits for approximately 8 million beneficiaries. When appointing representative payees, we adhere to guidance in the Social Security Act (the Act).”
“Specific to this audit, the Act permits us to appoint, in certain circumstances, an undocumented alien, or applicant who resides outside the United States without a Social Security number (SSN) to serve as payee,” the agency stated. “Specifically, the Act states we should verify a person’s SSN (or employer identification number) in our investigation of the payee applicant. However, the Act does not state that the applicant must have an SSN to serve as a payee.”
The “absence of an SSN is not a criterion preventing an individual from serving as payee,” the agency added.