Social Security:

Direct Mail Solicitations by the Social Security Protection Bureau

HRD-90-9: Published: Jan 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the private-sector Social Security Protection Bureau's fund-raising activities, focusing on the: (1) activities of the firm's parent company and its relation to the firm and other organizations; (2) legality of the firm's operations; (3) costs incurred by the Social Security Administration (SSA); and (4) state government actions against the firm.

GAO noted that: (1) the parent was a multimillion-dollar business and received most of the money obtained from the public through the firm's promotion of nonprofit organizations; (2) the firm stated in its mailings that it assisted members in acquiring earnings statements from SSA and lobbied to protect members from losing Social Security benefits; (3) the benefits of the firm's services were questionable, since SSA provided earnings statements free of charge, while the firm charged a fee; (4) although the firm was the subject of congressional hearings on mailings to the elderly and was under U.S. Postal Service review for questionable mailing practices, it appeared to be operating within federal legal requirements; (5) at least 13 states have taken legal action against the firm or have inquired into its operations; and (6) SSA stated that it processed over 350,000 information requests generated by the firm, at a cost of $900,000.

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