Protecting the Safety Net from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

capital-building (7)By – Elizabeth Lawrence

On June 3, 2015, the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, “Protecting the Safety Net from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” that addressed the high levels of fraudulent behavior involved in safety net programs that go largely unpunished every year, as well as wasteful spending that results from a lack of proper oversight from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) gave the opening remarks, where he highlighted the billions of taxpayer funds that are wasted in improper payments every year in the Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. In 2014, SSI improperly paid $5.1 billion, while UI improperly paid $5.6 billion.

Chairman Boustany went on to explain how these safety net programs are especially vulnerable to fraud as well as high error rates, since both programs “focus on getting checks out the door before verifying they are going to the right person.” These high error rates and fraud waste billions of taxpayer funds every year and keep those funds from Americans who are truly in need. Furthermore, the panels that were assembled for the hearing made it clear that data systems exist to reduce over payments and prevent the ineligible from collecting these safety net benefits. Boustany closed his remarks with a call to action for bipartisan support to protect these safety net programs from abuse.

Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, was the first to testify. His testimony focused on both H.R. 2359 “The Disability FRAUD Prevention Act of 2015,” as well as H.R. 2504, the “Control Unlawful Fugitive Felon (CUFF) Act of 2015” – two bills that AMAC strongly support. Johnson expressed his current dissatisfaction with the current oversight concerning fugitives receiving SSI payments as well as disability insurance. As Johnson put it, “Americans won’t stand for criminals getting benefits, especially when Social Security will soon lack the money to pay full benefits to law-abiding citizens.” Johnson also expressed his frustration concerning scandals in West Virginia, New York and Puerto Rico where fraudsters stole millions in taxpayer fund – a fact that AMAC members find entirely unacceptable. Johnson’s proposed bills would save $10 billion, of which $6.4 billion would go to Social Security Trust Fund.

Following Representative Sam Johnson, Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady called to attention the fact that some unemployed individuals subsist on SSI payments alone, never attempting to seek gainful employment because of the large unemployment checks they receive each month that pay more than a job would. Furthermore, Brady pointed out that one of the main reasons unemployed individuals are unable to reenter the work force is due to their inability to pass a drug test. Brady moved to make UI programs drug-free environments in order to encourage Americans to earn paychecks instead of picking up unemployment checks. Brady argued that this change would get Americans back in the work force and would free up safety net funds for those who are unable to work, such as the low-income elderly and disabled individuals.

Echoing the sentiments of both Brady and Johnson, Representative Renacci enthusiastically advocated for a bipartisan revival of the American dream and urged members of the Subcommittee to place “progress over politics and work together to end the job-crushing policies that have consumed Washington.” Renacci called for states to make unemployment programs more effective and to become more focused on getting individuals back in the workforce, while leaving safety net benefits to those in genuine need.

The second panel of the hearing was comprised of private as well as public sector workers who are committed to improving the integrity of safety net programs. Patrick O’Carroll, Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, proposed monthly SSI checks by partnering with private databases to determine SSI eligibility, as an individual’s job status is subject to change throughout a calendar year. O’Carroll emphasized the importance of cooperation between the private and public sector, using SSA’s partnership with Equifax as an example of this cooperation. Equifax’s VP of Government Sales Debra Rohlman was also present on the panel and discussed the modern database solution available to prevent fraud and improper payments. While this modernization is not a cheap or instant solution, Dan Bertoni of the Government Accountability Office spoke to the importance that this modernization occurs. O’Carroll also expressed a strong desire for individuals who commit fraud to pay restitutions in order to cut down on the loss of taxpayer funds due to overpayments. Various panel members highlighted the importance of O’Carroll’s suggestions.

Throughout the testimony and question and answer session, there was unified bipartisan agreement that both the SSI and UI programs need structural reformation. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) expressed his dismay concerning the continued budget cuts and SSA regional office closures since 2010. SSA has lost 500,000 employees, and SSA’s budget today is less than it was in 2010. These changes have led to a loss of vital personnel required for fraud investigations as well as customer services. Over a million people are currently waiting to file for disability, are unable to work, and are not receiving their Social Security checks. These lapses of coverage, overpayments, and fraud cases make it increasingly clear that America’s safety net programs need to change.

AMAC members hope to see this change take place soon through legislation and have supported several bills that seek to protect American taxpayers – especially older Americans. AMAC agrees that Social Security benefits should not be provided to those who are ineligible. Representative Sam Johnson pointed out that while this is not a partisan issue, it is a pressing issue. With the Disability Insurance Trust Fund running out of funds in a little over a year, these reforms are commonsense. AMAC will continue to ensure that Social Security waste, fraud, and abuse remains a top priority for the Ways and Means Committee and that substantive steps are taken to guarantee and preserve these vital safety net programs.

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Joe McHugh
7 years ago

Ivan Berry, protocol, protocol. I believe that the proper way to address, or refer to the members of the Congress is
the Honorable Mr. Smith. So Ivan, you can see that typing the Honorable Jerk, Mr. Smith would be more acceptable, right?

M.D. "Morry" Schrock
7 years ago

Allow me to regale you with my experience re; Soc.Sec. retirement sign-up. I did this in a small city of just under 50,000 people, and when I got within a month of age 65, I walked in to the Soc Sec office and saw that there was a “take-a-number” system. I was number 34. As I looked about the room, i saw one other gray-haired lady, and possibly one man who appeared to be in my retirement age bracket. All the rest of the occupants of the room were young and hispanic looking (and speaking) folks. When at last, my number was called, the first thing I asked the lady at the window was “Do you require proof of citizenship, before any of these folks can apply for benefits?” She replied; “Oh my, no, we don’t dare even ask!” I told her that confirmed many of my long-standing suspicions, and went ahead to apply for my own retirement benefits. This was in early 2002, people- and that kind of CRRAAP has been going on before and since! Wanna know how to fix Social Security ? The answer is EASY- and right before your very eyes!

7 years ago

Michele the big spender of the publics money .UNBELIEVABLE
INSANITY! How can this happen? National press makes no mention. Canada hadto exposes this.

LOOK WHO IS TAKING WHO FOR A REAL RIDE you must be a racist if this bothers you


Mary Lincoln was taken to task for purchasing China for the White House during the Civil War.
And Mamie Eisenhower had to shell out the salary for her personal secretary from her husband’s salary.
Total Personal Staff members for other first ladies paid by you the taxpayers:
Mamie Eisenhower: One– paid for personally out of President’s salary.
Jackie Kennedy: One
Rosaline Carter: One
Barbara Bush: One
Hilary Clinton: Three
Laura Bush: One
Michele Obama: Twenty-two
How things have changed! If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans facing certain destitution, earning less than subsistence wages stocking the shelves at Wal-Mart or serving up McDonald cheeseburgers, prepare to scream and then come to realize that the benefit package for these servants of Mrs. Obama are the same as members of the national security and defense departments and the bill for these assorted lackeys is paid by YOU, John Q. Public:
Michele Obama’s personal staff:
One.. $172,200 – Sher, Susan (Chief Of Staff)
Two.. $140,000 – Frye, Jocelyn C. (Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy And Projects For The First Lady)
Three.. $113,000 – Rogers, Desiree G. (Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary for Mrs. Obama)
Four.. $102,000 – Johnston, Camille Y. (Special Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the First Lady)
Five.. $100,000 – Winter, Melissa (Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
Six.. $90,000 – Medina, David S. (Deputy Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
Seven.. $84,000 – Lilyveld, Catherine M. (Director and Press Secretary to the First Lady)
Eight.. $75,000 – Starkey, Frances M. (Director of Scheduling and Advance for the First Lady)
Nine.. $70,000 – Sanders, Trooper (Deputy Director of Policy and Project for the First Lady)
Ten.. $65,000 – Burnough, Erinn (Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary)
Eleven.. $64,000 – Reinstein, Joseph B.(Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary)
Twelve.. $62,000 – Goodman, Jennifer R. (Deputy Director of Scheduling and Events Coordinator For The First Lady)
Thirteen.. $60,000 Fitz, Alan O.(Deputy Director of Advance and Trip Director for the First Lady)
Fourteen.. $57,500 – Lewis, Dana M. (Special Assistant and Personal Aide to the First Lady)
Fifteen.. $52,500 – Mustaphi, Semonti M. (Associate Director and Deputy Press Secretary To The First Lady)
Sixteen.. $50,000 – Jarvis, Kristen E. (Special Assistant f or Scheduling and Traveling Aide To The First Lady)
Seventeen.. $45,000 – Lechtenberg, Tyler A. (Associate Director of Correspondence For The First Lady)
Eighteen.. $43,000 – Tubman, Samantha a (Deputy Associate Director, Social Office)
Nineteen.. $40,000 – Boswell, Joseph J. (Executive Assistant to the Chief Of Staff to the First Lady)
Twenty.. $36,000 – Armbruster, Sally M. (Staff Assistant to the Social Secretary)
Twenty-One. . $35,000 – Bookey, Natalie (Staff Assistant)
Twenty-Two. . $35,000 – Jackson, Deilia A. (Deputy Associate Director of Correspondence for the First Lady)
Total $1,591,200 in annual salaries all for someone we did not vote for, and apparently have no control over.
There has NEVER been anyone in the White House at any time who has created such an army of staffers whose sole duties are the facilitation of the First Lady’s social life.
One wonders why she needs so much help, at taxpayer expense.
Note: This does not include makeup artist Ingrid Grimes-Miles, 49, and “First Hairstylist” Johnny Wright, 31, both of whom traveled aboard Air Force One to Europe …
Copyright 2009 Canada Free Press: canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/12652
The Canadian Free Press had to publish this. I wonder why the US media has not brought this to light??? Too scared that they might be considered racist or suffer at the hands of Obama???

Joe McHugh
7 years ago
Reply to  boldaq

Au contraire, mon ami. America’s first lady, Michele Obama is behaving exactly how the big-eared biped in the Oval Office wants her to behave. You seem to be under the illusion that obama is exercising appropriate stewardship with the people’s tax money. Perhaps your definition of “appropriate stewardship” differs from obama’s.

This is the thing. obama is following Vladimir Lenin’s advice, which is: “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.” Now I ask you Boldaq, if obama is trying to bankrupt the United States to facilitate the bringing about of a “new world order”, wouldn’t it make sense for him to instruct Michele to spend as much of the taxpayer’s money as possible?

After all, the people of America would be much more willing to consider obama’s socialist ideas, if the economy suffered a complete collapse, wouldn’t they?

Ivan Berry
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe McHugh

BOLDAQ, thanks for that info. Priceless. And thanks also, Joe, for adding your two cents. A real bargan, you two, and well worth the reading.
I like the way y’all think. Who raised you and where do you come from? Sure don’t sound anything like our media and collectivist leaders.

Joe McHugh
7 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Ivan Berry, thanks for the kind words but I like to think that I am just like millions of other Americans who regard the Constitution as being something more than bathroom tissue.

Let’s see, without tempting the trolls who may be reading this, I can tell you that I’m a resident of the People’s Republic of New York. I was raised in a lower middle class environment and graduated from the school of hard knocks. I admire the works of John Locke and Thomas Hobbs, people who understood the importance of the inherent rights of individual citizens.

I am a self-taught man who identifies with the politics of any who did not vote for the big-eared biped in the Oval Office. Well, some of the libertarians go off the deep end in calling for small government but they are far better than the liberals and progressives.

As for my viewpoint of the present day politics, I’m somewhat pessimistic. America is in decline and there is no indication that the majority of the voters will experience an epiphany that will change their voting behavior. We are on a path to a complete economic collapse that will make the Great Depression seem like a walk in the park on a rainy day.

The future? Sooner or later, the economy will reach a point where basic availability of food and energy will cause protests, then riots. The government will attempt to suppress these food and energy riots and there will be blood.

That’s when the real party will begin. When the upheaval ends, the surviving liberal elite will discover what the splintered posts in front of the walls are for. The liberal automatons will be running for their lives trying to assure one and all that they never voted for the likes of obama.

Crazy talk? Look at the national debt and the growing deficit spending and then tell me everything will be coming up roses! You will know when the economy is collapsing when the Chinese and others decline to purchase anymore Treasury Notes and Government Bonds. The fall of the dollar will be breathtaking at that point. $100.00 for a loaf of bread today, then $125.00 for the same loaf of bread on the next day?

The good news? Every cloud has a silver lining and the Constitution will be amended in several ways to prevent a repeat of yet another American rebellion. Amendments that address a balanced budget, term limits, voter ID, secure borders, etc. etc, will once again provide a Law of the Land that will be a true aegis against corruption of our “trusted representatives” and the development of tyranny in Washington, D.C.

“Undocumented” aliens? Don’t get me started!

Joe McHugh
7 years ago

The House Ways and Means Human Resources sub-committee held a hearing entitled “Protecting the safety net from waste, fraud, and abuse.” The testimony included this statement “….since 2010 the SSA has lost 500,000 employees, and the SSA’s budget today is less than it was in 2010.”

The implication is blindingly clear. The Congress should immediately increase the Social Security Administration budget with enough funds to rehire those 500,000, or more, to enable that administration to begin to address the current fraud situation. I, for one, applaud this Human Resources sub-committee for its foresight in fighting the fraud and corruption that is occurring in this worthy “safety net”.

There is only one thing that gives me pause about the efforts of this committee. I have a mental picture that these committee members are sitting in a circle and exercising their members in a naughty manner. But then I know that these
honorable representatives will do the right thing and vote to throw whatever taxpayer money that is required at the problem to at least give the people the impression that they are indeed, “honorable”.

Ivan Berry
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe McHugh

Yep. All talk and no play. Committees’ designs usually are a hodge-podge of confusion and the willingness to throw more money at THE problem. Kinda like throwing gasoline on a fire. They can always claim to have fixed a problem even though it was Congress that created the problems in the first place. Getting tired of all these jerks claiming to have the nations’ interest at heart while things just get more and more out of control.

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