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Chairman Johnson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing on Stopping Disability Fraud

April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Stopping Disability Fraud: Risk, Prevention, and Detection.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on how Social Security is preventing and identifying fraud in its disability programs. 

“Last month, Eric Conn, a lawyer from Kentucky, pled guilty to fraud that would have caused Social Security to pay $550 million dollars in lifetime benefits due to fraudulent submissions. Back in Texas we would say that Conn is as crooked as the Brazos [River]. In his plea, Mr. Conn said that he worked with doctors to submit false medical evidence and that he paid a Social Security Administrative Law Judge around $10,000 every month to approve claims. Conn was at this since 2004.

“Sadly this isn’t the only major fraud case to hit the disability program in recent years. There’s New York where New York City police officers and firefighters claimed 9/11 related injuries – when many of them never even worked at Ground Zero – in order to get disability benefits they didn’t deserve. 

“And Puerto Rico, where a former Social Security employee was in cahoots with a dirty doctor who provided fraudulent medical evidence that resulted in taxpayer-funded benefits that should never have been paid out in the first place.

“Like organized crime – these recent scandals reveal fraud rings made up of doctors, lawyers and even Social Security’s own employees. It’s a get rich quick scheme worth tens of thousands of dollars for every person who illegally gets benefits.

“These fraud cases show Social Security hasn’t always been able to stop disability fraud. 

“Now while the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included many commonsense ideas from this Subcommittee that try to address the problems these cases have brought to light, the reality is that it’s like playing catch-up.  

“Bottom-line:  Social Security has got to be one step ahead of the fraudsters.  

“At today’s hearing, we will take a hard look at Social Security’s efforts to fight fraud in its disability programs and stop it before a single dollar of benefits is paid. Social Security has a number of anti-fraud initiatives, but without any way to judge their effectiveness, we do not know if they are working.

“Today the Government Accountability Office will release its first report looking at agency efforts under its new Framework for Managing Fraud Risks. This report looks at how well Social Security is assessing and managing fraud risk in its disability programs. As we will hear to today, in recent years while Social Security has taken some steps in the right direction, there is still important work to do to prevent fraud.  

“Social Security pays hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits each year. If left undiscovered, fraud rings like those uncovered in Huntington, West Virginia, New York City, and Puerto Rico, have the potential to cost hard-working taxpayers billions of dollars.

“I know stopping fraud is a goal that we all share and although Social Security has increased its efforts to fight fraud, we need to be sure it is doing all it can to do so.

“I thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing their testimony.”