U.S. Capital

Report: The Social Security Administration’s Failure to Update Payment Records Due to Undetected Marriages Caused Millions in Improper Payments

May 3, 2024


Over $240 million in preventable overpayments identified

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report titled, Impact of Undetected Marriages on Social Security Administration Payments, found that SSA did not always take the necessary manual actions to properly update the payment records for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients or Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) beneficiaries when there was a name change because of marriage.

The report estimates SSA improperly paid 16,631 SSI recipients and OASDI beneficiaries approximately $240.9 million in preventable overpayments when there was a name change due to a change in marital status because SSA failed to update its payment records.

When a person changes their name, SSA systems do not automatically determine whether they are receiving benefits. SSA does not know about a marriage until an individual reports it. Once SSA is informed of an SSI recipient or OASDI beneficiary’s marriage, employees must take manual actions to update the payment records. Yet, SSA did not always do this, which led to overpayments.

“Marriage is a commitment between two individuals; SSA should be equally committed when someone walks into an office with a marriage certificate to correctly update the individuals record in order to ensure there is not a future overpayment,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for SSA. “Our hope is that SSA will make changes to properly reflect a change in marital status.”

Second, SSA paid an estimated $18.9 million in overpayments because the beneficiary failed to report a change in marital status and did not change their name right away. On average, SSA overpaid the SSI recipients and OASDI beneficiaries $13,458 over 30.6 months since the date of a name change. SSA explored the feasibility of using electronic marriage data to determine when individuals did not report marriage, as required. However, not all states/jurisdictions have a central repository of electronic marriage data, and many do not require, or collect, the marriage applicants’ Social Security number.

Read the full report here.

Read more from the SSA: Read More