Congressman Geoff Davis (R-KY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the use of technology to improve the administration of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program's financial eligibility requirements. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 2:00 PM.
In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is the nation's largest Federal means-tested cash assistance program and is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unlike the Social Security Disability and Retirement programs, which require sufficient past employment covered by Social Security payroll taxes for eligibility, the SSI program pays benefits to disabled and elderly individuals who currently have limited income and assets, regardless of prior work history, using general revenue funds.
In 2012, the SSI program provides monthly cash payments up to $698 per individual or $1,048 per couple, which typically includes eligibility for Medicaid to cover health expenses. In December 2011, SSI provided cash assistance to more than 8.1 million children, adults, and aged individuals at an annual cost of over $49.5 billion, not including Medicaid expenses. According to the SSA actuaries, the SSI program is expected to grow by one million recipients in the next decade, with the largest growth coming among those over the age of 65.
Since the program was created in 1972, SSI has applied financial eligibility requirements to all recipients, primarily in the form of monthly income and asset tests designed to ensure that individuals do not have significant current income or assets on which they should depend before turning to the program for support. For income, an individual's actual monthly benefit is determined by taking the Federal SSI benefit and subtracting countable wages and other income received during a month (generally up to $1,481 per month for an individual with income only from wages). If countable income is not reported in a timely manner, it can cause an overpayment that is typically recovered from an individual's future benefits. Separately, a recipient's assets must remain below $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple to maintain eligibility. Like income, certain items are countable, such as cash, liquid assets in a bank amount, or property that can be sold; other assets are not counted, such as the value of a primary residence, car, or burial plot.
The administration of these financial eligibility requirements can be difficult and error-prone if done manually and based on recipient-reported data. For fiscal year 2011, the SSI program had a 9.1% error rate, representing $4.6 billion in improper payments. To address this longstanding issue, SSA continues to look for ways to use technology to reduce error rates. This includes automated processing such as its Access to Financial Institutions (AFI) project, which attempts to confirm asset data reported by recipients with actual financial institution records. Through this and other automation efforts, SSA is expected to achieve significant program savings and has already reduced the SSI error rate by 17 percent in the last two years, even as overall benefit outlays have increased.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Geoff Davis (R-KY) stated, "The SSI program provides important financial support for low-income families with disabled children, disabled adults, and aged individuals. Especially in a restricted financial environment, we need to ensure SSA is using technology to its fullest to administer these benefits in an automated, reliable, and efficient manner. This hearing will review what progress SSA has been making on that front, which is essential to targeting limited taxpayer resources to those with the most financial need."
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
The hearing will review SSI financial eligibility requirements and the use of technology to improve their administration.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, http://waysandmeans.house.gov, select "Hearings." Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, "Click here to provide a submission for the record." Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. Attach your submission as a Word document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Friday, August 3, 2012. Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record. As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee. The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines. Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons, and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.