The report was sent to Rep.
What GAO Found: "The numbers of opioid prescriptions and claims for the
Program staff are required to evaluate and document substance use disorders (including opioids not taken as prescribed) when making certain DI eligibility decisions. Specifically, staff are required to evaluate potential substance use disorders for certain DI claims and deny benefits, for example, if the claimant would not be considered disabled if they stopped using drugs or alcohol. In addition, staff are generally required to document the rationale for their decision so that another reviewer can understand how they made the decision. However, staff in five of the six offices GAO visited in three states were confused about when to evaluate substance use disorders, and nine of 15 case files that GAO reviewed in which an evaluation was conducted did not have a documented rationale. SSA officials acknowledged the need to clarify policies on when to evaluate substance use disorders, and that a poorly documented rationale could lead to reversals or remands of decisions. Without ensuring that SSA's policies are understood and that staff document their rationale, the agency may expend resources re-working cases and, in turn, delay benefits to individuals eligible for assistance."
Why GAO Did This Study: "
This report examines (1) what is known about the relationship between trends in prescription opioids and DI claims, and (2) how SSA considers potential prescription opioid misuse in its DI eligibility decisions. GAO analyzed county-level data on opioid prescriptions and DI claims from 2006 through 2017; interviewed program staff involved in DI eligibility decisions in
What GAO Recommends: "GAO recommends that SSA 1) clarify policies and procedures to help staff better evaluate substance use disorders, and 2) ensure staff document their rationale. SSA agreed with GAO's recommendations."
The text of the GAO report is available at https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-120