System errors lead SSA to issue replacement cards in error, IG says

Despite the lapses, the IG judged SSA to be mostly compliant

The Social Security Administration’s system errors are causing the incorrect issuance of replacement Social Security cards, according to a new report from the SSA’s Office of Inspector General.

Despite the errors, SSA generally complies with limits on replacement cards, SSA Inspector General Patrick O'Carroll said in the March 4 report.

Congress required limits on Social Security Number replacement cards as an anti-terrorism measure in 2004. Under the law, people can get a maximum of three replacement cards per year and 10 over a lifetime. The SSA’s Modernized Enumeration System tracks the number of replacement cards and the codes used to exceed those limits under permitted exceptions.

The IG identified 1,632 people who were issued four or five SSN replacement cards in a year. The IG then reviewed a random sample of 50 people in that group.

It found that 58 percent of the sample group received four or five replacement cards in a year, exceeding the limit, even though they did not have a valid exception for the additional cards, the report said.

The IG also reviewed records for an additional 17 people who received six or more replacement cards in a year. The investigation determined that 70 percent of that group received at least one of those cards in error.

Overall, of a sample of 67 cases reviewed, 41 people, or 61 percent, received SSN cards in error, the IG said. Twenty-two of them got the cards because of an error in the system programming SSA uses to process replacement card requests, the report said.

SSA generally complied with the SSN replacement card provisions of the law, the report said, adding, "However, improvements in systems controls over the processing of SSN replacement card requests will help SSA obtain full compliance with these provisions."

SSA officials agreed with the findings.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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