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Work & Welfare Subcommittee Chairman LaHood Opening Statement – Hearing with Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley

March 21, 2024

“One of my main concerns is the high rate of improper payments in SSI. In FY 2022, the agency reported $5.3 billion in improper payments, $4.6 billion of which were overpayments.”

As prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Chairman Ferguson. 

“Welcome Commissioner O’Malley, we appreciate you taking the time to join us today and congratulations on your confirmation. 

“I look forward to hearing more about your plans for re-focusing the Social Security Administration on its customer service mission. 

“It is critical that we work together to ensure seniors, and the millions of Americans with disabilities that depend on your agency, get the services they need.

“You have a tall task before you. I have heard from numerous constituents from across Illinois’ 16th District, covering much of the central and northwestern parts of the state, about the Social Security Administration’s struggle to provide timely, responsive services.  

“Since the beginning of last year, my office has worked on 150 Social Security constituent cases, with about one-fourth of them still open.

“As Chairman of the Work and Welfare Subcommittee, I have a particular interest in your plans that would impact the Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program, and the individuals it serves. Our Subcommittee oversees SSI along with multiple federal programs that help Americans most in need. 

“One of my main concerns is the high rate of improper payments in SSI. In FY 2022, the agency reported $5.3 billion in improper payments, $4.6 billion of which were overpayments.

“Many of these occur through no fault of those who have been improperly paid and place a heavy burden on recipients who often face a difficult and time-intensive process to resolve the issue.

“I appreciate the Social Security Administration’s recent rulemaking to put in place the payroll information exchange to combat improper payments, as requested by myself and Chairman Ferguson, nearly nine years after Congress authorized it. 

“We should use every available tool and technology available to make sure we get payments right the first time. 

“However, that does not mean that SSA should sidestep Congress and unilaterally use rulemaking to change eligibility rules in the name of administrative simplification and reducing improper payments. 

“In the last two years, SSA has quietly released several proposed rules that continue the Biden Administration’s executive overreach that threatens to cost taxpayers billions. 

“By my count, SSA has four proposed rules that would result in $40 billion in unpaid for, mandatory spending in the Social Security and SSI programs.

“For example, SSA has proposed expanding the definition of a ‘public assistance household’ at an estimated ten-year cost of nearly $16 billion. 

“Another rule proposes to reduce the level of scrutiny given to a disability claimant’s ability to do past work at an estimated ten-year cost of $20 billion.

“It has not gone unnoticed how SSA is overstepping Congress’s authority to make spending decisions. I hope we can work together to ensure that these rules are not finalized in their current form or without offsetting costs as called for in the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act signed by President Biden last year.  

“Finally, our subcommittee is interested in working with you on finding ways to support what I call the dignity of work.

“All of our government programs need to be oriented to provide every opportunity for able-bodied individuals – no matter their circumstance – to grow their capacity and be connected to meaningful work. 

“To that end, SSA should make a renewed commitment to help people with disabilities enter or re-enter the workforce through work incentives and employment support, such as vocational and rehabilitative services.

“This should include reviewing the outdated Ticket to Work program and the numerous other obsolete and ineffective return to work demonstrations that the SSA has in its purview. 

“We are eager to work with you, as a new pair of eyes, to dust off these initiatives and put them to better use.  

“Thank you for being here today and I look forward to your testimony.”