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Boustany Opening Statement: Protecting the Safety Net from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

June 03, 2015

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

WASHINGTON — Today, House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on protecting the safety net from waste, fraud, and abuse.

“Welcome to today’s hearing on how we can protect key safety net programs from waste, fraud, and abuse.

“We will review risks involving unemployment insurance and supplemental security income, which benefits low-income elderly and disabled individuals. UI and SSI are very different programs, but they have one thing in common: each wastes billions of dollars in taxpayer funds every year due to their high improper payment rates.

“Specifically, in FY 2014, SSI improperly paid $5.1 billion, while UI improperly paid $5.6 billion.

“Here is a recent investigative piece from CNN that explains how UI is vulnerable to abuse.

“Since FY 2007, SSI and UI improper payment rates have been near 10 percent, wasting nearly $100 billion combined in taxpayer funds. This isn’t a partisan matter—OMB has placed both UI and SSI on their annual list of programs with the highest error rates since they started compiling such a list.

“Even worse, these error rates are not improving. The UI error rate actually rose last year, and a 2012 GAO report found that cumulative SSI overpayment debt rose 92 percent in the prior decade, while overpayment recovery increased only 40 percent.

“One cause of high error rates is that both programs place an emphasis on getting checks out the door before verifying they are going to the right person. Fortunately, we should be able to make progress there without harming those who need such help right away. As we will learn from several of our witnesses, data systems exist that agencies can use to better prevent improper payments to identify thieves, prison inmates, fugitives, people with significant earnings, people with significant savings, or others who simply should not be collecting these benefits.

“We are fortunate to have a number of our colleagues joining us to discuss specific proposals to protect these programs from abuse. We welcome all of our witnesses and look forward to learning more about how we can both reduce improper payments and improve services for Americans truly in need.”