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GAO Finds Railroad Retirement Disability Program Fails to Prevent Fraud

August 01, 2014

Washington, DC – Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) total and permanent (T&P) disability program, financed in part by Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) revenues, lacks safeguards to prevent fraud.  

“With reports like these it’s no wonder that Americans are losing confidence in Social Security and the federal government as a whole.  It’s time for the Railroad Retirement Board and Social Security to get serious about stopping those who don’t deserve disability benefits from getting them in the first place,” Johnson urged.  “Hardworking taxpayers and those truly deserving of the benefits want, need, and deserve no less.”

The RRB’s T&P disability benefits are based on the same definition and the same criteria as Social Security uses for the DI program.  But, poor quality medical information and few oversight controls led the GAO to find that the RRB is unable to ensure the integrity of its process system-wide and that no program risks have been addressed.

The GAO found that the RRB lacked accurate earnings data, did not require cases to be reviewed by a secondary source, lacked a quality assurance review program and accuracy goals, and put little emphasis, such as agency wide staff training on identifying and preventing fraud.  

In 2012, the RRB awarded $276 million in T&P benefits.  Under current law these benefits are financed through the RRB and the SSA resulting in DI revenues funding 79 percent of benefits in 2012.