U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, today announced a hearing on ways to prevent conspiracy fraud in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 in B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Subcommittee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), 11 million beneficiaries received $139.4 billion in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in fiscal year 2013. Currently, 160 million workers contribute to Social Security. The 2013 Social Security Trustees report projects that revenues will be sufficient to pay only 80 percent of SSDI benefits beginning in 2016. The SSDI program is under increased scrutiny after a Senate investigation and two investigations uncovered significant incidents of fraud costing taxpayers millions.
On September 19, 2013, the Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on an SSDI fraud conspiracy in Puerto Rico. In August of 2013, authorities in Puerto Rico arrested more than 70 individuals charged in the conspiracy, including several doctors and a former SSA employee. Under the alleged scheme, the former SSA employee would help a claimant file an SSDI application and, with the assistance of a conspiring doctor, provide fraudulent medical evidence that would result in benefits for individuals who did not, in fact, meet the legal eligibility standard for disability benefits. The hearing examined the details of the scheme, the SSA’s oversight of the SSDI program in Puerto Rico, as well as the agency’s overall efforts to detect, prevent and prosecute fraud.
In October of 2013, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released the results of a bipartisan investigation detailing inappropriate conduct and collusion between a Kentucky law firm, an SSA Administrative Law Judge in Huntington, West Virginia and local doctors. The investigation revealed that inappropriate collusive actions were taken to approve disability benefits and highlighted years of ineffective oversight by the SSA.
Following an announcement by the New York County District Attorney’s Office regarding the indictment of 106 defendants for their alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy, the Subcommittee held a hearing on January 16, 2014, focusing on the details of the New York scheme that cost taxpayers approximately $23.2 million. In exchange for individual cash payments of up to $50,000, four facilitators helped coach 102 SSDI applicants, including many retired police officers and firefighters, on how to falsely demonstrate symptoms of mental disorders in order to fraudulently obtain disability benefits. At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Johnson asked the Acting Commissioner of Social Security to present Congress with a full report, within 30 days, detailing the agency’s efforts to combat fraud conspiracies targeting the SSDI program, plans for future initiatives and recommendations for legislation.
In announcing the hearing, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson said,
“When criminals are able to take advantage of Social Security’s disability program due to its outdated policies and pay-first chase-later culture, taxpayers and those who count on the vital program end up paying the price. That’s wrong! If Social Security wants to regain the public’s confidence, it must commit itself to preventing fraud from happening in the first place. It’s time for Social Security to protect precious taxpayer dollars. That’s why last month, I asked Acting Commissioner Colvin for a plan detailing the immediate actions Social Security is taking to prevent further disability fraud. Hardworking taxpayers want, need, and deserve real action. I look forward to hearing her ideas and those of our other experts.”
FOCUS OF THE HEARING
The hearing will examine the Acting Commissioner’s plan and legislative recommendations for preventing conspiracy fraud. The Subcommittee will also hear the recommendations of public and private sector experts to stop disability fraud schemes before benefits are awarded and to deter criminals from attempting to cheat the system.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, https://waysandmeans.house.gov, select “Hearings.” Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Click here to provide a submission for the record.” Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. ATTACH your submission as a Word or WordPerfect document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record. As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee. The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines. Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word or WordPerfect format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days’ notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.