The GAO found that SSA’s current anti-fraud efforts are hindered by inadequate employee training and disincentives for employees to report fraudulent activity. In addition, the GAO found that SSA’s new initiatives to combat physician-assisted fraud are fraught with inadequate planning, data and coordination, thereby placing the nearly bankrupt Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund at an increased risk.
In discussing the report, Chairman Johnson said, “Medicare doesn’t allow dirty doctors to treat seniors, yet Social Security won’t even question the medical evidence doctors provide. The disability scandals in Puerto Rico and New York would never have been possible without crooked doctors helping to bilk hard working taxpayers of millions of dollars in annual benefits for nearly 200 undeserving recipients. It’s time Social Security did a better job protecting the disability program from fraud and abuse. Congress can help by passing my Stop Disability Fraud Act, which keeps Social Security from using evidence from dirty doctors.”
“Physician-assisted fraud is a serious problem, and as the GAO points out, Social Security’s current response has been woefully insufficient and inadequate,” Ranking Member Hatch said. “The disability trust fund is depleting at a rapid rate and each instance of fraud strains scarce resources needed for the truly disabled. The Social Security Administration has a duty to the American people to ensure that disability benefits go to deserving Americans and that tax dollars received from hard-working American taxpayers are not wasted or stolen.”
SSA uses medical evidence to make determinations on disability benefits applications and is dependent on physicians to provide truthful and accurate medical evidence. Recently, a number of schemes have come to light wherein fraudsters collude with physicians to submit fraudulent disability applications in order to receive cash payments from SSA. While it is difficult to determine the exact amount of physician-assisted fraud, each case can cost SSA hundreds of thousands of dollars. The DI Trust Fund is anticipated to be depleted in 2016.
Key findings from the GAO report follow and a full copy of the report can be found HERE:
Improved Employee Procedures and Training Needed: According the GAO report, “Unless SSA and the DDSs work to remedy performance measures that primarily focus on and reward timeliness, possibly at the expense of delving into potentially problematic claims, the agency will remain vulnerable to potential fraud. Further, absent enhanced and consistent training, front-line staff may lack the expertise to identify and report potential fraud.”
Initiatives Hampered by Mismanagement: According the GAO report, “SSA has launched several initiatives to detect and prevent potential fraud, but their success is hampered by a lack of planning, data, and coordination. … Absent a coordinated and cohesive effort, SSA could undermine the success of its new initiatives and remain vulnerable to physician-assisted fraud in the future.”
Medical Evidence from Sanctioned Physicians: According the GAO report, “SSA has not fully evaluated the risk associated with accepting medical evidence from physicians who are barred from participating in federal health programs. … SSA has some controls in place to help ensure that sanctioned physicians do not perform exams on behalf of the agency. However, the agency could be exposing itself to risk by using medical evidence from physicians who are sanctioned by either federal or state governments.”
Chairman Camp said: “It is absolutely unacceptable – and unfair – that foreign diplomats can have their health costs subsidized by the American taxpayer, all thanks to the President’s health law. Time and again, the Affordable Care Act has proven to be anything but affordable for taxpayers. It is not the responsibility of honest, hardworking Americans to provide health coverage for foreign diplomats, but rather a duty of those nations sending them here. This straightforward legislation will put a stop to this unjust practice, and I am proud to introduce it with my friend Chairman Royce.”
Chairman Royce said: “After many months of inquiry by the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Obama Administration finally came clean about the fact that foreign diplomats are eligible for taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies. This is shockingly unacceptable. Americans’ tax dollars should not be used to subsidize foreign diplomats’ health coverage. These foreign governments should cover the healthcare costs of the diplomats they send here. This important, commonsense legislation makes this clear, and I am pleased to be working with Chairman Camp to move it forward.”
Note: The introduction of H.R. 5825 follows a year of inquiry by Chairman Royce. After the arrest of 25 Russian diplomats for attempting to illegally obtain Medicaid benefits in December of 2013, Chairman Royce began pressing the Obama Administration for information. Initially, the Committee sent a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting information on the arrest and the eligibility of foreign diplomats receiving government-funded medical benefits. In January and April, the Committee also sent letters to the Secretary of HHS regarding foreign diplomats’ eligibility to receive Obamacare. In a response on September 30, HHS confirmed foreign diplomats’ eligibility for government subsidized healthcare. In October, Chairman Royce and Chairman Camp wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen seeking information about how many foreign diplomats have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act and have received subsidies.
Every day, selfless Americans nationwide decide to donate in support of an array of causes, be it finding a cure for cancer, helping underprivileged children succeed in school, or simply providing a meal and shelter that, for some, is hard to come by.
Countless Americans dedicate their lives to these causes and serving their friends and neighbors in need. The three charitable policies in this legislation can provide tremendous support for those good works. However, because these policies are only temporary, they are not nearly as effective as they can or should be. It is well past time that Congress takes the necessary action to support America’s charities and those that benefit from their work and make these policies permanent.
We were close to reaching a bipartisan deal with the Senate that would have made them permanent, but the President decided to play politics and issued a veto threat. Just two days before Thanksgiving, the President announced that he considers a policy that encourages donations to food banks to be a giveaway to big corporations. I would like to see the President travel to the West Midland Family Center food pantry in my district and tell them that they are a corporate giveaway.
The Supporting America’s Charities Act, H.R. 5806, fixes what the Administration and some Senators decided not to. This legislation will ultimately increase charitable giving by making these policies permanent and enabling charities to better serve those in need.
These bipartisan proposals previously passed the House in July of this year as part of the America Gives More Act, and continue to experience unrivaled support from organizations nationwide. In fact, 1,032 charitable organizations have written every Member of Congress in support of the permanent tax incentives.
Take, for example, a joint letter authored in July by five of America’s leading charitable organizations. In discussing their unanimous support for the America Gives More Act, they said, and I quote:
I do not think I’m alone when I say this: policies that promote donations to health centers, youth counseling programs, and therapy for people with disabilities are NOT giveaways to corporate America.
As I said last week, the end of the year is fast approaching, and a new tax filing season is just around the corner. Now is not the time for those who so selflessly donate to wonder what tax surprises are waiting for them, no more than it is the time for charitable organizations to grow uncertain about their futures.
There is no goodwill like that of an American. As representatives of this great nation, we should do everything in our power to encourage individuals to give more and help charitable organizations expand their reach nationwide.
As the giving spirit of the holiday season is around us, I urge my friends on both sides of the aisle, in both houses of Congress, to support those who give and those in need by voting yes on H.R. 5806.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Washington, DC – Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced the Taxpayer Protections Against Abusive Seizures Act, legislation that provides taxpayers with protections against the inappropriate application of civil forfeiture laws. These laws were enacted to curtail money laundering and terrorist activities, but a recent report in the New York Times indicates that they have also been used to seize funds from some small businesses, in some cases leaving them with no working capital to make payroll and maintain needed inventory.
The laws are designed to prevent a practice called “structuring,” the act of making small cash deposits to avoid the $10,000 bank-reporting threshold that is commonly used by drug dealers, money launderers, and terrorist entities to avoid detection by authorities. The laws authorize the government to seize the funds of those found engaging in structuring, and in the instance reported in the New York Times, there were inadequate opportunities for the business owner to challenge the seizures.
In announcing the legislation, Chairman Camp said, “In America, a citizen suspected of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. All too often, however, our current laws allow the government to assume guilt without allowing the accused a speedy hearing, depriving them of much needed working capital. This bill provides average American small business owners the ability to challenge powerful government agencies like the IRS, and guarantees them their day in court.”
Ranking Member Levin said, “This legislation would give law-abiding taxpayers – including small business owners – an opportunity to challenge a notice of seizure and ensure that the IRS is acting appropriately and within the law. Taxpayers have the right to due process when their property is seized, and this bill protects that right.”
The legislation would provide that an affected person, within fourteen days of receiving a notice of a seizure, may request a court to hold a probable cause hearing within fourteen days of such request. Additionally, the bill provides that if, within fourteen days of such request, no hearing is held, or if the government fails to show probable cause, the seized funds are automatically returned to the individual.
The ABLE Act (H.R. 647) is designed to help more individuals with disabilities work, save, and live independently without losing access to Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
In discussing H.R. 647, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said, “The ABLE Act will allow those with disabilities and their caregivers to have the stability and security of knowing that they can save and provide for education, housing, and medical expenses in the future. This is a commonsense bill that will aid those with disabilities and their families so they can live more fulfilling, happy lives and have the ability to provide for a better future.”
The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (H.R. 5771) would extend, for one year (generally through the end of 2014), a number of tax relief provisions that expired either at the end of calendar year 2013 or during 2014, thus preventing tax increases on millions of families and businesses as the tax year 2014 filing season begins early next year. By enacting H.R. 5771, Congress can continue to pursue its efforts to make certain expiring tax provisions permanent to provide certainty and stability to families and businesses, without causing disruption for taxpayers trying to file their 2014 tax returns.
In discussing H.R. 5771, Chairman Camp said, "With the end of the year and a new tax filing season rapidly approaching, we need to act. The IRS has been clear that unless Congress acts quickly, it will be forced to delay the start of the tax filing season. American families are struggling to make ends meet as wages remain flat even as expenses rise. These families cannot and should not face a delay in getting their tax refunds."
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, commonly known as the ABLE Act, will allow those with disabilities and their caregivers to have the stability and security of knowing that they can save and provide for education, housing, and medical expenses in the future.
In short, the ABLE Act lets those with disabilities set up tax-free savings accounts to help them manage the costs of medical care, housing, transportation, and continued education. This will allow those who are on Medicaid and SSI to work, earn, and save more while still receiving those important benefits. It is important to note that these savings accounts will be available to all individuals with disabilities and their caretakers, not just those on Medicaid or SSI.
This is a commonsense bill that will aid those with disabilities and their caretakers so they can live more fulfilling, happy lives and have the ability to provide for a better future.
At the same time, this will not burden taxpayers, since the cost of the ABLE Act is fully offset by the savings provisions in this bill. These offsets are a balanced and fair mix of savings provisions that all Members should be able to support.
This bill is supported by more than 70 leading organizations and healthcare professionals, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, the Brain Injury Association of America, Easter Seals, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Disability Institute, the National Down Syndrome Society, the National Federation of the Blind, and The ARC.
They support this bill because they know it will help more disabled individuals help themselves. That’s all anyone can ask for, and it is something I am pleased this legislation provides.
This is why the ABLE Act has 380 cosponsors in the House and 74 cosponsors in the Senate. I want to particularly thank the sponsor of this legislation, my friend Representative Ander Crenshaw, as well as Representatives Sessions, McMorris Rogers, and Van Hollen for their diligence in helping us bring this legislation to the floor today.
It’s not every day we have the chance to clear major hurdles in front of people who simply need a hand up. That’s what this bill does, and I encourage all Members to support it.
Hardworking taxpayers deserve to know whether these tax policies are going to be there year in and year out on a permanent basis. Temporary renewals cannot provide the certainty that American businesses need in order to make the best decisions about how to invest in cutting edge research, whether to buy that new piece of equipment, and most importantly, whether to hire that additional worker. And, these temporary renewals mean uncertainty for families as well as they try to plan their family budgets.
Throughout the year, the Ways and Means Committee has produced legislation that carefully examined many of these temporary extenders and reformed and made permanent several of the most important ones. The whole House, on a bipartisan basis, subsequently passed this legislation. This included important policies such as a permanent and improved credit for research and development and permanently higher section 179 expensing levels for small businesses – policies that were also included in the President’s budget proposals.
Analysis by the non-partisan experts at the Joint Committee on Taxation confirmed that permanent extensions of these policies would result in companies spending more on R&D and making new investments, all of which would promote job creation and higher wages.
Having passed a number of these policies through the House on a bipartisan basis, we proceeded with the rather old-fashioned approach of beginning bipartisan negotiations with the Senate. Until last week, we were making significant progress in those negotiations as everyone involved worked in good faith to reach a successful conclusion. We were close to reaching an agreement that would ensure many of the bills that passed the House on a bipartisan basis would be included.
In addition, we were going beyond the list of traditional tax extenders and including additional policies designed specifically to assist low- and middle-income American families. In particular, policies such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps low- and middle-income families afford college, which was also included in the President’s budget proposals. Other policies included making permanent the deduction for state and local sales taxes and the tax rules for mass transit benefits.
However, before those negotiations could conclude, the Administration took the unbelievable step of issuing a veto threat. Yes – the President issued a veto threat over bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.
Now, I cannot tell you with certainty exactly what the Administration wants, because the Administration has not even bothered to reach out and tell us what the President’s priorities are. Rather than trying to engage and work with Congress, the Administration is only communicating through press statements.
The President has often said he wants to work with Congress to find bipartisan solutions. In fact, in his press conference after the election, the President said, “I’m eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible. I’m committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people.”
That statement is completely at odds the President’s actions last week. And we all know that actions speak louder than words.
As a result of the Administration’s actions, negotiations with the Senate have come to a standstill. Inexplicably, the Administration and some Senate Democrats have taken the position that policies that promote savings, investment, charitable donations, and job creation are a “giveaway” to big corporations.
Perhaps these Senators and the Administration should listen to the 1,032 charitable organizations that have written to every Member of Congress in support of the permanent tax incentives for charitable giving that would have been included in the agreement with the Senate. I don’t think that policies that promote donations to food banks, homeless shelters and hospitals are giveaways to corporate America.
The Administration’s actions now force us to take a different and less effective approach. With the end of the year and a new tax filing season rapidly approaching, we need to act. The IRS has been clear that unless Congress acts quickly, it will be forced to delay the start of the tax filing season.
American families are struggling to make ends meet as wages remain flat even as expenses rise. These families cannot and should not face a delay in getting their tax refunds.
The legislation before you today will address the concerns raised by the IRS and ensure the tax filing season can open on time. We should ensure that the President’s actions do not hurt hardworking taxpayers who are counting on that tax refund. Therefore, I urge the House to pass this legislation and ensure that the tax filing season opens on time.
A section-by-section of the bill can be viewed here.
In introducing the bill on the House floor, Chairman Johnson said, “For many years, a loophole has allowed Nazis to get Social Security benefits. While the number of Nazis receiving Social Security is few, allowing payments to continue is an insult to those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Today the House took an important step to right this wrong. I urge the Senate to immediately take up this bill and send it to the President.”
Ranking Member Becerra added, “The perpetrators of the Holocaust have no place in the United States of America and under no circumstances should they have access to our crown jewel, Social Security. Thanks to bipartisan work in both the House and Senate, Congress is taking swift action to ensure that these heinous war criminals can no longer exploit a loophole to receive benefits. This vote shows that Congress can and will continue to protect the hard-earned Social Security benefits that millions of Americans rely on.”
Specifically, the bill amends the law to:
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