An audit conducted by the Office of the Inspector General found that the Social Security Administration had administered $1 billion in benefits to an estimated 22,426 beneficiaries without Social Security numbers between April 2006 and September 2016.
"Furthermore, unless it takes corrective action, we estimate that SSA will pay these representative payees about $182.5 million in benefits annually," the OIG audit, released Feb. 17, added.
The OIG also found that the SSA had paid $853.1 million to terminated representative payees, or people who had receive benefits on behalf of someone unable to properly manage them, between October 2004 and September 2016.
The audit reports that the SSA would continue to pay $189.6 million annually to these terminated representative payees unless the agency takes corrective action.
The report recommended that the SSA "improve controls to ensure it (a) records individuals representative payees' SSNs in its payment records and (b) retains the application for representative payees who do not have an SSN."
The OIG audit also found that 17 percent of representative payees without SSNs were undocumented immigrants.
The SSA attributed some of the payments made to terminated representative payees to their shift towards an Electronic Representative System in 2016. The agency has maintained that payments to representative payees without a SSN or even undocumented status are necessary to ensure that those who merit the benefits receive them.
"We have approximately 5.7 million representative payees managing annual benefits for approximately 8 million beneficiaries," the SSA told the Washington Free Beacon.
Citing the Social Security Act, the SSA asserted that the law "permits us to appoint, in certain circumstances, an undocumented alien or applicant who resides outside the United States without a [SSN] to serve as payee... absence of an SSN is not a criterion preventing an individual from serving as payee."