Benefit Accuracy Measurement Program Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet Benefit Accuracy Measurement Program

The Benefit Accuracy Measurement (BAM) program (before 1996 called Benefits Quality Control) is designed to determine the accuracy of paid and denied claims in three major Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs. It does this by reconstructing the UI claims process for samples of weekly payments and denied claims using data verified by trained investigators.

For claims that were overpaid, underpaid, or improperly denied, BAM determines the cause of and the party responsible for the error, the point in the UI claims process at which the error was detected, and actions taken by the agency and employers prior to the error. For erroneous paid claims, BAM determines the amount of benefits the claimant should have received.

The General Accounting Office, in its report, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Increased Focus on Program Integrity Could Reduce Billions in Overpayments (GAO-02-697, July 2002) found that:

Labor’s benefit accuracy measurement data are an estimate of the total overpayments in the UI program—in each state and the nation as a whole—based on a statistically valid examination of a sample of paid and denied claims.

Coverage

BAM covers the three largest permanently authorized unemployment compensation (UC) programs: State UI, Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE), and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members (UCX). BAM data for paid claims are available for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico from January 1988 through the present. BAM Denied Claims Accuracy (DCA), which investigates the accuracy of denied UC claims, began in August 2001.

Sample Design

State BAM samples are randomly selected from the populations of UI, UCFE, and UCX payments and determinations denying eligibility issued by the state each week. BAM refers to this weekly sampling interval as a batch. Each batch begins at midnight Sunday and runs until 11:59 p.m. Saturday. BAM records the number of UI weeks and dollars that were paid in the population from which the sample was selected and the number of denied claims for DCA so that the sample data can be weighted to make inferences concerning the population.

Sample Sizes

Before 1997, BAM paid claims sample sizes ranged from 400 to 1800 cases per year per state. Since 1997, allocated sample sizes range from 360 cases per year in the 10 states with the smallest UI workloads to 480 cases in the remainder of the states. Several states have chosen to select larger samples. For DCA, states sample 150 cases for each of the three types of denials -- monetary, separation, and nonseparation.

Database

The BAM database includes about 110 data elements for each sampled payment or denial. Data for 15 of these elements are captured twice (before and after the investigation), and eight are completed only for erroneous payments or denials. Aggregate data for each batch are collected for 42 additional data elements, most of which are demographic characteristics of the sample and population.

Methodology Considerations

Estimates based on BAM data are subject to the usual sampling and non-sampling errors that can affect survey data. BAM has implemented several quality assurance procedures to minimize non-sampling errors, such as incomplete or improperly defined sampling frames, errors of interpretation and data entry errors. Nonresponse bias is not significant. Nationally, BAM program staffs gather sufficient information from claimants, employers and third parties to complete their investigations for over 99 percent of the UI payments that are sampled (response rates for DCA are somewhat lower); sample case completion rates are 100 percent in most states. When the program began, all BAM verifications were done in person. Since 1993, investigators may use telephone, mail, and fax to collect their data. Studies have shown that although such methods yield somewhat less information than in-person contacts, the overall accuracy rate estimates are not significantly affected.

To evaluate the accuracy of each sampled payment, the BAM program investigates the UI claimant’s monetary and separation eligibility, as well as all information relevant to the compensated week of unemployment that was sampled, including the claimant’s availability for work, efforts to find suitable work, and earnings from casual employment or other income sources, such as Social Security or pensions. Investigations of denied claims are limited to the issue for which eligibility was denied. For example, if a claimant was denied UC because of a voluntary quit separation issue, DCA will investigate only that issue, not the claimant’s monetary or nonseparation eligibility. Both BAM paid and denied claims accuracy record demographic, UI program, and labor market data on each claimant. BAM does not maintain longitudinal data on the claimant’s UI benefit history subsequent to the compensated week sampled.

Although claimant characteristics can be inferred from the data, it is important to keep in mind that the BAM paid claims sampling frames consist of payments. Claimants have an increased chance of selection to the BAM paid claims samples the longer they remain in the UI system and are paid benefits. Estimates of claimant characteristics that are correlated with duration of receiving benefits are subject to bias unless they are weighted to take into account the claimant’s probability of sample selection.

Published Findings

The Department of Labor has published BAM data by state along with supplementary analyses annually since 1988. From 1988 to 1995, the report was called the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Quality Control Annual Report; 1996 data were published in the UI Benefit Accuracy Measurement Annual Report. Since 1997 BAM data have been published as part of the UI PERFORMS Annual Report, which also includes data from the Benefit Timeliness and Quality program and the Tax Performance System. The UI PERFORMS Annual Report is available on the U. S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration Office of Workforce Security Web site.

Contacts

To obtain further information about the BAM program and the use of its database, please contact:

Andrew Spisak
Mathematical Statistician
Division of Performance Management
Office of Workforce Security
202-693-3196
Spisak.Andrew@dol.gov

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Burman Skrable
Team Leader, Data Analysis and Validation
Division of Performance Management
Office of Workforce Security
202-693-3197
Skrable.Burman@dol.gov