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    Subject Term: "Federal social security programs"

    7 publications with a total of 39 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Gregory C. Wilshusen
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and effectiveness of governmentwide efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs and thereby mitigate the risk of identity theft, the Director of OMB should specify elements that agency plans for reducing the unnecessary collection, use, and display of SSNs should contain and require all agencies to develop and maintain complete plans.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and effectiveness of governmentwide efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs and thereby mitigate the risk of identity theft, the Director of OMB should require agencies to modify their inventories of systems containing personally identifiable information to indicate which systems contain SSNs and use the inventories to monitor their reduction of unnecessary collection and use of SSNs.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and effectiveness of governmentwide efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs and thereby mitigate the risk of identity theft, the Director of OMB should provide criteria to agencies on how to determine unnecessary use of SSNs to facilitate consistent application across the federal government.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and effectiveness of governmentwide efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs and thereby mitigate the risk of identity theft, the Director of OMB should take steps to ensure that agencies provide up-to-date status reports on their progress in eliminating unnecessary SSN collection, use, and display in their annual Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 reports.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and effectiveness of governmentwide efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs and thereby mitigate the risk of identity theft, the Director of OMB should establish performance measures to monitor agency progress in consistently and effectively implementing planned reduction efforts.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Barbara Bovbjerg
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct the agency to develop a long-term facility plan that explicitly links to SSA's strategic goals for service delivery, and includes a strategy for consolidating or downsizing field offices in light of increasing use of and geographic variation in remote service delivery.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendations and noted steps it plans to take to enable further reduction in its footprint, such as co-locating field and hearing offices and reducing warehouse space. SSA will also work within the existing Memorandum of Understanding to conduct a proof of concept on space sharing by employees who telework.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct the agency to reassess and, if needed, revise its field office space standards to ensure they provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate both unexpected growth in the demand for services and new service delivery technologies.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendations and noted steps it plans to take to enable further reduction in its footprint.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct the agency to ensure the Real Estate and Lease Tracking application has the capacity to accurately track the composition of SSA's office inventory over time.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendations and noted steps it plans to take to enable further reduction in its footprint.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct the agency to develop a cost-effective approach to identifying the most common issues with online benefit claims that require staff follow-up with applicants, and use this information to inform improvements to the online claims process.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendations and noted steps it plans to take to enable further reduction in its footprint.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct the agency for its alternative customer services approaches, including desktop icons and video services in third-party sites, to develop performance goals and collect performance data related to these goals.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendations and noted steps it plans to take to enable further reduction in its footprint, such as expanding video hearing capacity.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should analyze the SEIE data to determine why a large proportion of transition-age youth on SSI with reported earnings did not benefit from the SEIE and, if warranted, take actions to ensure that those eligible for the incentive benefit from it.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that it would also explore various options for increasing connections to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), stating that in addition to assessing options for referring youth to VR and/or changing the Ticket to Work program, the agency will continue to research other options for supporting transitioning youth.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should analyze options to improve communication about SSA-administered work incentives and the implications of work on SSI benefits, with a goal of increasing understanding of SSI program rules and work incentives among transition-age youth and their families. This should include, but not necessarily be limited to, updating SSAs procedures for staff meeting with SSI applicants, recipients, and their families to regularly and consistently discuss - when applicable--how work incentives can prevent reductions in benefit levels and how work history is considered during eligibility redeterminations.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation, noting that it already analyzed, and continuously monitors and solicits feedback on, options to improve communications. SSA also said it requires staff to meet with SSI recipients regularly and instructs staff to discuss relevant work incentives, and that there is no indication that staff are not providing youth with appropriate work incentive information. However, SSA did not explain how it knows or ensures that staff are providing this information and SSA policies do not instruct staff to consistently convey information to youth and families on how work may or may not affect age 18 redetermination. While SSA's new brochure provides information on age-18 redeterminations, work incentives and other resources, we believe it could also contain additional relevant information, for example, on Medicaid eligibility. We also noted that written information may not be sufficient for conveying complex information. In addition, while we recognize the important role that WIPA projects play in providing work incentives counseling to SSI youth, WIPA projects have limited capacity for serving youth along with other SSI recipients and disability insurance beneficiaries. Therefore, we continue to believe that there are opportunities for SSA to improve its communication with transition-age youth and their families, including through in-person or telephone interactions.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should work with the Secretary of Education to determine the extent to which youth on SSI are not receiving transition services through schools that can connect them to VR agencies and services.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA partially agreed with this recommendation. SSA noted its ongoing collaboration with Education and other agencies through the Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (PROMISE) project, stating the initiative is testing the provision of VR services to youth receiving SSI and will provide some evidence related to the role of schools and VR services for this population. SSA also stated it will continue to pursue research in this area. While we recognize the value of this initiative, a final PROMISE evaluation is not expected until winter 2022. In addition, the PROMISE initiative was not designed to determine the extent to which youth on SSI are receiving transition services through schools or are otherwise connected to VR services. SSA also noted that it works with Education and other agencies through the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) Workgroup to improve the provision of transition services to students with disabilities, and that the FPT has issued a blueprint of agencies' efforts. While the FPT can be a promising vehicle to help connect youth on SSI to key transition services, the FPT had not set timelines or milestones to achieve its broad goal to support positive outcomes for youth with disabilities, nor does it have a list or specific activities and tasks it will undertake. Therefore, we continue to believe additional collaboration by SSA with Education would be beneficial. SSA also noted several concerns related to complying with this recommendation, such as legal (privacy) concerns with data sharing, the capacity of state VR agencies to serve more individuals, and the receptivity of youth on SSI to receiving services. While we acknowledge these challenges, we believe that SSA can take steps to explore actions it could take after considering such legal issues. While low state VR capacity or individual motivation can obstruct receipt of VR services, they should not prevent SSA from working with Education to determine the extent to which SSI youth are sufficiently informed of VR resources that are potentially available to them.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should explore various options for increasing connections to VR agencies and services, including their potential costs and benefits. One option, among others, could be to expand the Ticket to Work program to include youth.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that, in addition to assessing legal and statutory options for referring youth to VR and/or changing the Ticket to Work program, it would also continue its research supporting youth.
    Director: Allison Bawden
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To preserve the balance between the importance of repaying federal student loan debt and protecting a minimum level of Social Security benefits put in place by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, Congress should consider modifying Social Security administrative offset provisions, such as by authorizing the Department of the Treasury to annually index the amount of Social Security benefits exempted from administrative offset to reflect changes in the cost of living over time.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this matter.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform affected borrowers of the suspension of offset and potential consequences if the borrower does not take action to apply for a TPD discharge. Such information could include notification that interest continues to accrue and that offsets may resume once their disability benefits are converted to retirement benefits.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education does not currently notify borrowers of the suspension of offset, but plans to implement a process to do so in the future using a new mailing sent to affected borrowers by their default servicer. The current budget situation does not allow for this type of enhancement, and it is not clear when that will change. In the interim, the agency is exploring alternative notification approaches that could be put in place prior to the implementation of an automated solution. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should revise forms sent to borrowers already approved for a TPD discharge to clearly and prominently state that failure to provide annual income verification documentation during the 3-year monitoring period will result in loan reinstatement.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) TPD-Post discharge forms contain the recommended language in the first bullet of the Earned Income Section. In order to more clearly provide this information they recommended that the new OMB form, which is in its public comment period, (1) use a larger font size for the form and (2) use "plain language." GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should evaluate the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process, including determining whether the agency has the necessary legal authority to implement such a process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that over the next six months, they are committed to working with SSA to determine the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process. The verification will address both the legal authority to implement such a process as well as operational and budgetary feasibility. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform borrowers about the financial hardship exemption option and application process on the agency's website, as well as the notice of offset sent to borrowers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees with the recommendation and said that they will include this change in upcoming revisions to the agency's web content. The agency reported that the Notice of Offset to borrowers is sent by Treasury and that they will share this recommendation with Treasury and discuss possible changes to the notice. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should implement an annual review process to ensure that only eligible borrowers are exempted from offset for financial hardship on an ongoing basis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that it plans plan to fully automate their process for tracking hardships and other exceptions from offset. However, due to competing priorities and funding limitations, full implementation of these improvements have not been scheduled. As they fully implement this process, they will review complementary strategies to assist borrowers in complying with annual reporting requirements. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Director: Wilshusen, Gregory C
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    17 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should revise guidance on computer matching to clarify whether front-end verification queries are covered by the Computer Matching Act.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should direct agencies to address all key elements when preparing cost-benefit analyses.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To make government-wide computer matching program planning efforts more consistent, the Director of OMB should ensure that agencies receive assistance in implementing computer matching programs as envisioned by the act.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on the agency's computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Education should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that it has already developed policies and procedures for preparing cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements (CMA). The agency believes these analyses already incorporate the appropriate key elements, although it continues to reexamine them in the interest of continuous improvement. ED also noted that not all key elements apply to every computer matching program. For example, the agency did not think it appropriate to address the recovery of improper payments and debts for matching programs to establish eligibility. However, we believe all key elements should be addressed in cost benefit analyses, even if only to note that certain types of benefits have been considered and determined not to be applicable in the specific circumstances of a given computer matching program. Without a thorough assessment, the Data Integrity Board may not have sufficient information to determine whether a thorough cost analysis has been conducted. In 2017, the agency provided three cost benefit analyses from recent CMAs that include personnel and computer costs.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information needed to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Labor should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure the DIB reviews cost-benefit analyses to make certain cost savings information for the computer matching program is included before approving CMAs.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate the agency's actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Administrator of Social Security should ensure the DIB performs annual reviews and submits annual reports on agency computer matching activities, as required by the act.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Director: Bagdoyan, Seto J
    Phone: (202) 512-4749

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect and prevent potential DI cash benefit overpayments due to work activity during the 5-month waiting period, the Commissioner of Social Security should assess the costs and feasibility of establishing a mechanism to detect potentially disqualifying earnings during all months of the waiting period, including those months of earnings that the agency's enforcement operation does not currently detect and implement this mechanism, to the extent that an analysis determines it is cost-effective and feasible.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: While the Social Security Administration (SSA) initially concurred with our August 2013 recommendation, as of February 2017, SSA has not assessed costs and feasibility of establishing a mechanism to detect potentially disqualifying earnings during all months of the waiting period. Instead, SSA concluded that conducting a study at this time would yield unreliable information because the agency's ability to obtain and track earnings from alternative sources is changing due to several requirements of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2016, which SSA believes will likely affect GAO's concerns. GAO continues to believe that undertaking an analysis to assess costs and feasibility could provide SSA with more comprehensive information with which to decide on potential revisions to its enforcement operation. We will continue to monitor SSA's efforts in this area.
    Director: Iritani, Katherine M
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the transparency of CMS oversight and clarify and communicate the types of allowable state financing arrangements, the Administrator of CMS should provide each state CMS reviews under its initiative with specific and written explanations regarding agency determinations on the allowability of various arrangements for financing the nonfederal share of Medicaid payments and make these determinations available to all states and interested parties.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2016, HHS officials reported that they have not implemented this recommendation. GAO considers it to be open. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.