More needs to be done to vet organizations handling Social Security benefits on behalf of people with disabilities who are unable to manage their own money, government investigators say.

A report out this month from the Government Accountability Office finds severe gaps in how the Social Security Administration assesses the fitness of nonprofits, residential facilities and other organizations tasked with overseeing benefits.

Social Security does work to determine if organizations have enough staff to appropriately manage benefits for multiple people. In addition, the agency conducts onsite reviews of some organizational representative payees, GAO said.

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While individuals who serve as representative payees for a relative or friend must undergo background checks, there is no similar requirement for the key staff of organizational representative payees. And, investigators said that Social Security is lax about following up in cases where organizational representative payees have missing or problematic annual accounting forms.

The issue is significant, GAO noted, with more than 33,000 organizational representative payees serving about 952,000 Social Security beneficiaries in 2018.

“These beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable because, in addition to being deemed incapable of managing their own benefits, they lack family or another responsible party to assume this responsibility,” government investigators said in their report.

“Without clearer guidance, unqualified or ill-prepared organizational payees could be approved to manage benefits,” the report indicates.

GAO is recommending that Social Security take a number of steps including considering background checks, updating its accounting form and reviewing the model currently used to determine which organizational representative payees undergo onsite reviews. Social Security agreed with the recommendations and said it is continually working to improve protections for beneficiaries with representatives payees.