Legislative Update for Week Ending May 20, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 20, 2016

This week, the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee met to discuss fraud, waste, and abuse with Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain four new cosponsors.

Lawmakers Discuss Social Security Fraud

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Protecting Social Security from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” Congressman Bob Dold (IL-10) chaired the hearing, and Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll – who is retiring at the end of the month after twelve years with the Social Security Administration – testified before members of the subcommittee.

Those on the subcommittee focused on the challenges that are currently facing the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program. In his opening statement, Congressman Dold said, “As you know well, hardworking taxpayers fund the Social Security Administration and they rightly expect that Social Security will do all it can to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.” He continued, saying: “So when Americans hear and read in the news stories about hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud in Puerto Rico and New York, or the agency spending over $300 million on an IT project that has yet to work, you can’t blame them for asking questions.”

In his testimony, Inspector General O’Carroll laid out his greatest concerns for the program. First, he said, the administration must modernize and secure its information systems to protect data from attacks or disruptions. Second, the administration must become better stewards of public funds without compromising service to applications and beneficiaries. And third, Inspector General O’Carroll said the administration must further prevent and identify disability fraud using new, innovative tools.

Members of the subcommittee on both sides of the aisle seemed to agree that the Social Security Administration must prioritize fraud prevention and data security. Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Ranking Member of the Social Security Subcommittee, stressed the need to provide the administration with adequate funding. He said, “SSA is being left with too little to perform its essential functions … Social Security is already extremely efficient: its administrative costs are less than one percent of its benefit payments. However, SSA has 9 percent fewer front-line staff than it had in fiscal year 2010. It should not be a surprise that we are seeing backlogs growing and long wait times for services.”

TSCL agrees that Congress must provide the Social Security Administration with adequate funding to tackle growing backlogs and to increase continuing disability reviews for those enrolled in the DI program. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate on Capitol Hill for comprehensive legislation that would reduce fraud, waste, and abuse within the Social Security program. To follow our progress, find us on Twitter or Facebook, where we post frequent updates.

Key Bill(s) Gain Support

This week, four new cosponsors – Reps. Jared Huffman (CA-2), David Jolly (FL-13), Mike Turner (OH-10), and Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) – signed on to the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (H.R. 711). The cosponsor total is now up to ninety-two.

If signed into law, H.R. 711 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), a provision that reduces the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other public servants by as much as 40 percent each year. It would establish a new formula for their non-covered earnings, and it would create an additional formula for retirees who are currently affected. TSCL was pleased to see four new cosponsors sign on to H.R. 711 this week since we believe its passage would be a sensible step forward. We hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year.