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    Subject Term: "Persons with disabilities"

    25 publications with a total of 72 open recommendations including 5 priority recommendations
    Director: Kathryn A. Larin
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop a formal and systematic approach to gathering information to identify potential conditions for the CAL list, including by sharing information through SSA's website on how to propose conditions for the list and by utilizing research that is directly applicable to identifying CAL conditions.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop formal procedures for consistently notifying those who propose conditions for the CAL list of the status of their proposals.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop and communicate internally and externally criteria for selecting conditions for the CAL list.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should take steps to obtain information that can help refine the selection software for CAL claims, for example by using management data, research, or DDS office feedback.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should clarify written policies and procedures regarding when manual addition and removal of CAL flags should occur on individual claims.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should assess the reasons why the uses of manual actions vary across DDS offices to ensure that they are being used appropriately.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop a schedule and a plan for updates to the CAL impairment summaries to ensure that information is medically up to date.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To ensure expedited processing of disability claims through CAL is consistent and accurate, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security should develop a plan to regularly review and use available data to assess the accuracy and consistency of CAL decision-making.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: Seto Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner (or Acting Commissioner) of SSA should direct the OAFP to lead a comprehensive fraud risk assessment that is consistent with leading practices, and develop a plan for regularly updating the assessment.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner (or Acting Commissioner) of SSA should direct the OAFP to develop, document, and implement an antifraud strategy that is aligned to its assessed fraud risks.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner (or Acting Commissioner) of SSA should direct the OAFP to work with components responsible for implementing antifraud initiatives to develop outcome-oriented metrics, including baselines and goals, where appropriate for antifraud activities.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner (or Acting Commissioner) of SSA should direct the OAFP to review progress toward meeting goals on a regular basis, and recommend that the NAFC make changes to control activities or take other corrective actions on any initiatives that are not meeting goals.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Katherine Iritani
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the collection of complete and consistent personal care services data and better ensure CMS can effectively monitor the states' provision of and spending on Medicaid personal care services, CMS should establish standard reporting guidance for personal care services collected through Transformed-MSIS (T-MSIS) to ensure that key data reported by states, such as procedure codes, provider identification numbers, units of service, and dates of service, are complete and consistent.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    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 collection of complete and consistent personal care services data and better ensure CMS can effectively monitor the states' provision of and spending on Medicaid personal care services, CMS should better ensure, for all types of personal care services programs, that data on provision of personal care services and other home-and community-based services (HCBS) collected through T-MSIS claims can be specifically linked to the expenditure lines on the CMS-64 that correspond with those particular types of HCBS services.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    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 collection of complete and consistent personal care services data and better ensure CMS can effectively monitor the states' provision of and spending on Medicaid personal care services, CMS should better ensure that personal care services data collected from states through T-MSIS and MBES comply with CMS reporting requirements.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    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 collection of complete and consistent personal care services data and better ensure CMS can effectively monitor the states' provision of and spending on Medicaid personal care services, CMS should develop plans for analyzing and using personal care services data for program management and oversight.

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

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: John Dicken
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Executive Director of NCD should assign responsibilities for conducting future campaign activities and develop an evaluation plan for its activities.

    Agency: National Council on Disability
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, the National Council on Disability (NCD) had developed a plan for conducting campaign activities that had assigned responsibilities. However, as a result of recent changes in leadership and staff, several key activities do not have staff assigned and will need to be updated to ensure responsibility for completing the plan. Additionally, NCD said that they plan to conduct an internal audit in December 2017 to monitor the progress of their activities. While this audit is helpful in identifying progress to date, our recommendation suggests that NCD should also plan to evaluate the effectiveness of its activities.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that it provides all eligible populations access to its services and that its eligibility requirements are consistent with currently accepted practices, the Library of Congress should re-examine and potentially revise its requirement that medical doctors must certify eligibility for the NLS program for those with a reading disability caused by organic dysfunction.

    Agency: Library of Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has contracted for a study of how eligibility based on reading disability should be certified. This study will look at medical advances in the diagnosis of reading disabilities, the NLS authorizing statute, and the potential impact of a regulatory change on the program. The expected completion date is December 2017. To close this recommendation, the Library of Congress must demonstrate that this study has been completed and that NLS has determined whether a change in its requirements is warranted.
    Recommendation: To ensure funds are directed to the most cost-effective outreach efforts, NLS should evaluate the effectiveness of its outreach efforts, including the extent to which different outreach efforts have resulted in new users.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has begun revising the program application form so that it captures information on how applicants were referred to the program. NLS expects to have all libraries nationwide using this revised application by sometime in 2018. In addition, the Library of Congress indicated that NLS has contracted for a multi-year, multi-media advertising campaign. This effort will assess the effectiveness of different approaches by connecting direct responses to ads with verified program enrollment. The campaign is expected to be fully underway by January 2018. To close this recommendation, the Library of Congress will need to demonstrate that NLS has fully implemented one or more of its planned new approaches for evaluating outreach.
    Recommendation: To help it determine the most cost-effective approach for its next audio player, NLS should comprehensively assess the alternatives of designing its own specialized audio player versus providing commercially available players to its users.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has contracted for a study of the different commercially available audio players for their usability, life-cycle costs, maintenance needs, and durability. The study is expected to be completed by December 2017, and will guide NLS in its decision about how to develop its next generation of audio players. To close this recommendation as implemented, the Library of Congress will have to demonstrate that this study has been conducted and that NLS has considered its findings in making a decision about its next generation audio player.
    Recommendation: To help it determine whether to supplement its collection of human-narrated audio materials with text-to-speech materials, NLS should thoroughly assess the text-to-speech option versus continuing to provide only human-narrated materials.

    Agency: Library of Congress: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Library of Congress indicated that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has developed a library of 100 text-to-speech (synthetic speech) talking books. In September 2017, NLS will begin a 3-month pilot in which a group of NLS users try out these talking books and provide input to NLS. Also, NLS will require that its next generation of audio players have the capacity to play synthetic speech talking books, and the study it has contracted of commercially available players will consider this requirement among other factors. To close this recommendation as implemented, NLS needs to demonstrate that it has completed its text-to-speech pilot and has decided on an approach going forward with regards to expanding this program.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Deputy Commissioner of Operations to further consider cost savings as part of its prioritization of full medical reviews. Such options could include considering the feasibility of prioritizing different types of beneficiaries on the basis of their estimated average savings and, as appropriate, integrating case-specific indicators of potential cost savings, such as beneficiary age and benefit amount, into its modeling or prioritization process.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, SSA stated that there is no accepted way to accurately predict future benefit payments at the individual level and that any improvement from implementing this recommendation would be minimal - and would be reduced over time as the continuing disability review (CDR) backlog diminishes - because SSA already considers expected return on investment by cohort in its overall approach to releasing CDRs. It is unclear whether SSA will be able to achieve and sustain currency in its CDR workloads. Even if SSA were to eliminate the backlog of full medical reviews, refining its prioritization process would enable the agency to more efficiently use its resources with any future backlogs. SSA could use actuarial considerations to prioritize refined cohorts of beneficiaries (e.g., types of DI beneficiaries) on the basis of their estimated average savings. SSA Operations could collaborate with SSA's Office of the Actuary on this work as needed. SSA previously agreed that it could look for ways to improve its return on conducting CDRs, but also stated that its statistical models and prioritization process already do much of what we recommend. For example, SSA stated that age is already a strong variable in its statistical models. However, these models predict medical improvement and are not designed to take expected cost savings into account. We continue to believe that to maximize expected cost savings SSA could refine its prioritization process by factoring in additional actuarial considerations.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Deputy Commissioner of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management to complete a re-estimation of the statistical models that are used to prioritize CDRs and determine a plan for re-estimating these models on a regular basis to ensure that they reflect current conditions.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2016, SSA re-estimated the statistical models that it uses to prioritize CDRs. However, as of October 2017, SSA has not yet produced a plan for re-estimating the models on a regular basis to ensure that they continually reflect current conditions.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Deputy Commissioner of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management to monitor the characteristics of CDR errors to identify potential root causes and report results to the Disability Determination Services. For example, SSA could analyze CDRs with and without errors to identify trends by impairment, beneficiary type, or other characteristics.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and stated that it reports all errors to the relevant DDS for corrective action. SSA further stated that its identification of root causes is limited by the relatively few reviewed CDRs that have errors. However, in fiscal year 2014 as an example, SSA identified over 600 CDRs with errors. Although these CDRs make up a small percentage of the CDRs reviewed by SSA that year, the agency could analyze the characteristics of CDRs with errors by comparing relevant percentages without modeling. In addition, SSA could combine data from multiple years if it determined that considering more CDRs with errors would be helpful. There is no change in the status of this recommendation for 2017.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Deputy Commissioner of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management to regularly track the number and rate of date errors, which can affect benefit payments (e.g., incorrect cessation dates), and consider including those errors in its reported CDR accuracy rates.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation and stated that, per SSA regulation, the agency does not consider date errors when calculating accuracy rates because date errors do not affect the decision to cease or continue benefits. SSA also stated its stewardship reviews examine the non-medical quality of benefit payment decisions. However, these reviews are not focused on CDRs, and SSA does not report results from them for CDRs specifically. SSA also explained that it does not track the number and rate of date errors because they are infrequent. However, SSA's regulations do not prevent the agency from tracking date errors, and until it does, SSA cannot definitively determine the frequency of these errors. In addition, we found that considering date errors substantially reduced some states' estimated CDR accuracy rates. Without tracking these errors, SSA cannot assess their effect and consider whether including them in its reported CDR accuracy rates has merit. There is no change in the status of this recommendation for 2017.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Deputy Commissioner of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management to adjust its approach to sampling CDRs to efficiently produce reliable accuracy rate estimates for continuances and cessations separately in each state.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation and stated that some states do not generate enough CDR decisions, particularly cessations, to generate statistically valid samples. However, for states with CDR samples that are consistently too small to produce reliable results, SSA could, for example, pool decisions from more months than it currently does to generate statistically valid samples by state. Conversely, for states with CDR samples that are consistently larger than necessary to efficiently achieve reliable results, SSA could, for example, reduce sample sizes. Because CDR accuracy rates vary by state and cessations are consistently less accurate than continuances, we maintain that SSA should adjust its approach to sampling CDRs. There is no change in the status of this recommendation for 2017.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Social Security should direct the Chief Actuary to better document the methods including data sources, assumptions, and limitations that factor into its estimates of CDR cost savings.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and stated that it will improve and expand its existing documentation as time and resources permit. As of July 2017, SSA had begun to improve documentation of its OASDI estimates and plans further enhancements including documenting the methods of its SSI estimates.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    7 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve transparency in reporting processing errors, SSA should provide additional information on the margins of error or confidence intervals, and clearly identify any limitations in its findings on overpayment information provided to Congress and the public.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and reported in January 2016 that it would include a discussion about the limitations of error deficiencies data in future reports. To help close this recommendation, SSA will need to report any limitations, such as small sample sizes, that would affect the reliability of its estimates of DI improper payments due to specific types and causes of errors. Although SSA provided recommendation updates on this report in April 2017, it did not comment on this particular recommendation.
    Recommendation: To minimize the potential effect of vulnerabilities in the work reporting process, SSA should take steps to help ensure that work information is entered directly into eWork, the system of record for work information, and issue required receipts. Such steps could include: (a) Improving and issuing guidance and training to field and 800- number staff to help ensure they log information into eWork and issue required receipts. (b) Establishing policies to monitor alerts to help ensure that work information for concurrent beneficiaries is reflected in SSI and DI systems, and take steps to monitor and make enhancements to systems or guidance, as needed.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, SSA reported that it updated training to Field and Processing Center staff and issued an administrative message to staff to remind them about issues related to overpayments and waivers. SSA also reported that, as part of its implementation of Section 826 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L.114-74), it is creating a business process and building an internet work reporting system that will allow both SSDI beneficiaries and SSI recipients to report work and earnings electronically. According to SSA, this system will determine the individual's entitlement and automatically forward the work report to the appropriate staff for processing CDR decisions. To close this recommendation, SSA will need to provide documentation that shows the agency provided training and reminders to staff, and that the agency implemented a mechanism that ensures work information for concurrent beneficiaries is reflected in both SSI and DI systems.
    Recommendation: To further ensure the effective screening of work reports, SSA should monitor its process for handling work reports to determine whether staff are taking action on work reports in accordance with proper procedures, and provide feedback to staff as needed.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its April 2017 update, SSA continued to disagree with this recommendation. SSA stated that the outcome of a work continuing disability review (CDR) is not dependent on the accuracy of the work report. However, as we noted in our report, inaccurate work reports may result in overpayments or work receipts (which are required by law) to not be issued. Further, pending work reports may be closed inappropriately without resulting in a work CDR. To help close this recommendation, SSA will need to show how it plans to monitor its process for handling work reports to determine compliance with agency procedures, and how feedback, if any, will be provided to staff.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ease and integrity of the work reporting process, SSA should study the costs and benefits of automated reporting options, including options similar to those currently available for SSI recipients, but that do not go as far as automating the continuing disability review process.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, SSA reported that the agency has made progress on two fronts, which could enhance the ease and integrity of its work reporting process, both pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). In response to Section 826 of BBA, which requires SSA to permit Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries to report their earnings via electronic means similar to what is available for SSI recipients, SSA reported that it has drafted a business process to build an Internet and wage reporting system for SSDI beneficiaries. SSA also noted that this business process contains plans for an Internet work reporting system that will allow both SSDI and SSI recipients to report work and earnings electronically and will automatically forward the work report to either SSI or eWork (for DI beneficiaries), and will automatically generate a receipt to the beneficiary. SSA has also completed a business process for Section 824 of the BBA, which allows SSA to contract with third party payroll providers to receive earnings in a monthly file. SSA reported that these data will allow SSI to automate benefit adjustments based on the monthly earnings report, and for DI, the information will be incorporated into the agency's Work Smart process--a new technique that combines several business processes into one unified approach to identify cases in need of a work continuing disability review. To help close this recommendation, SSA will need to provide documentation of its proposed business process for building Internet and telephone wage reporting systems for DI beneficiaries.
    Recommendation: To enhance beneficiary understanding of work reporting requirements, SSA should: (a) Clarify work reporting requirements provided to beneficiaries. (b) Explore options for increasing the frequency of reporting reminders to DI beneficiaries, similar to those currently available to SSI recipients.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and noted in January 2016 that it plans to assess its method of communication and explore options to strengthen its message to Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries regarding the importance of consistent wage reporting. The agency also plans to consider whether direct phone outreach, currently being piloted to improve wage reporting for SSI recipients, would be appropriate for the DI program. In its April 2017 update, SSA indicated progress toward: updating policies and procedures related to "treatment of earnings derived from services," implementing a commercial payroll data exchange pursuant to section 824 of the BBA, and implementing electronic reporting of earnings pursuant to section 826 of the BBA. While the agency's actions to implement BBA requirements may improve program administration, SSA did not explain how these actions or its efforts to update to policies and procedures related to "treatment of earnings derived from services" would clarify work reporting requirements for or increase the frequency of reporting reminders to DI beneficiaries. SSA also did not provide an update on its plans to assess communication and explore options, as it reported in January 2016. To help close this recommendation, SSA will need to show how these or other actions taken clarify work reporting requirements for and increase reporting reminders for DI beneficiaries.
    Recommendation: improve compliance with waiver policies, SSA should develop a timetable for implementing updates to its Debt Management System to: (a) Align system controls with SSA policy, so that waivers over $1,000 cannot be administratively waived. (b) Ensure that evidence supporting waiver decisions is sufficiently maintained to allow for subsequent monitoring and oversight.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: According to SSA, in February 2016, the agency implemented an edit to the Debt Management System remarks that amended a deficiency in the system that prevented system remarks from being deleted after a case is closed. The edit locks Debt Management System remarks to prevent technicians from overwriting existing remarks in closed cases. With respect to ensuring that overpayments over $1,000 cannot be administratively waived, SSA reported in November 2016 that it will provide a timeline for and take steps to update the Debt Management System when the agency obtains resources to fund the update. SSA reported in April 2017 that its ability to update system controls to align with SSA policy was dependent on resources. To help close this recommendation, SSA will need to show its plans and time frames for updating system controls to align them with SSA policy.
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with waiver policies, SSA should take steps to regularly assess the accuracy of DI waiver decisions, particularly for administrative waivers and for some waivers under $2,000. This could include periodically reviewing approved and denied DI waivers through its continuous quality initiative.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, the agency reported that it had taken several actions, including producing a comprehensive training series on overpayment and waiver policy and procedures, building a policy cluster to serve as a "one-stop resource shop" of policy references and tools for technicians, and clarifying agency policies including the Administrative Tolerance Decision Tree to assist technicians with making appropriate low-dollar overpayment waiver decisions. The agency also reported that its Continuous Quality work group continues to review the accuracy of waivers under Title II of the Social Security Act. Based on these efforts, in November 2016, SSA reported that it has closed this recommendation. However, as of April 2017, SSA did not specifically report that its review of Title II waivers will target DI waivers, including administrative waivers and waivers less than $2,000, or that such review will be an ongoing effort. To close this recommendation, SSA will need to show its plans for periodically assessing the accuracy of DI waiver decisions--particularly for administrative waivers and waivers under $2,000--through its continuous quality initiative or other means.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen states' monitoring and facilitate local MOE compliance, the Secretary of Education should prioritize technical assistance and information sharing across states on ways to facilitate local MOE compliance with respect to the use of the four calculation methods and the exceptions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, Education officials reported that the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has been working on guidance on local educational agency maintenance of effort (LEA MOE) and intends to issue an expanded question and answer document by the end of 2016. In addition, the officials reported that the OSEP-funded Center for Idea Fiscal Reporting (CIFR) has taken additions steps, including creating an LEA MOE calculator projected for publication in fall 2016. GAO anticipates closing this recommendation when these activities have been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help districts address key challenges in meeting MOE and mitigate unintended consequences that may affect services for students with disabilities, while preserving the safeguard for funding for students with disabilities, Congress should consider options for a more flexible MOE requirement. This could include adopting a less stringent MOE requirement to align with the MOE requirements in other education programs or adding to or modifying exceptions. For example, current exceptions could be changed to allow one-time increases in spending without changing a district's MOE baseline in order to encourage pilot innovations or to allow certain spending decreases (e.g., state caps on teacher benefits), as long as a district can demonstrate the decrease does not negatively affect services.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken legislative action on this issue.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the best use of the VA Adaptive Sports Grant program funds, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Undersecretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs to systematically gather and disseminate, to all its grantees, techniques that can reduce the no-show rate at funded events.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with our recommendation. In 2015, VA stated that it would have grantees report on their policies, tools and experience with veterans and service members who do not show up for events; and measures grantees have taken to reduce no-shows. VA stated that it will analyze this information and disseminate best techniques, tools, and recommended actions to current and future grantees. We will close this recommendation when we receive documentation showing that VA is systematically gathering and disseminating information on best practices for reducing no-shows.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the best use of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Adaptive Sports Grant program funds, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Undersecretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs to revise the draft monitoring plan to include guidance on the number and frequency of annual site visits and desk audits.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. In 2015, VA reported that its final monitoring plan calls for conduct of site visits or desk audits of at least 10 percent of grantees in a grant year. We will close this recommendation when we receive a copy of the final plan for FY16 documenting this commitment.
    Director: Mark L. Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Chairman of FCC should evaluate the effectiveness of FCC's accessibility-related public outreach efforts and ensure those efforts incorporate key practices identified in this report, such as defining objectives and establishing process and outcome metrics.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

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

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to update the TDIU guidance to clarify how rating specialists should determine unemployability when making TDIU benefit decisions. This updated guidance could clarify whether factors such as enrollment in school, education level, and prior work history should be used and if so, how to consider them; and whether or not to assign more weight to certain factors than others. Updating the guidance would also give VBA the opportunity to re-examine the applicability, if at all, of other factors it has identified as extraneous.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported in March 2017 that an internal workgroup is in the final stage of collecting and analyzing the data to determine if age should be a factor in deciding Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU), and whether or not to use positive vocational assessments to disallow TDIU claims. VA reported that the workgroup is also in the process of completing an Inter-Rater Variability Assessment (IRVA) to examine the disparity in rating decisions involving entitlement to TDIU and service connection. After completion of the internal study on TDIU and the IRVA, targeted for September 30, 2017, the workgroup will submit its preliminary analysis and recommendations to VBA leadership for a decision on the next courses of action for future policy decisions and will then update any related guidance, as appropriate.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that TDIU decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to verify the self-reported income provided by veterans (a) applying for TDIU benefits and (b) undergoing the annual eligibility review process by comparing such information against IRS earnings data, which VBA currently has access to for this purpose. VA could also explore options to obtain more timely earnings data from other sources to ensure that claimants are working within allowable eligibility limits

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: VA is developing an upfront verification process by expanding the data sharing agreement with Social Security Administration (SSA), which enables VA to receive federal tax information via an encrypted electronic transmission through a secure portal. Once a Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) claim is received, VA will request the reported income through the secured SSA portal and receive a response within 10-16 days. VA reported that process will serve as a more efficient way to receive income data in a timely manner and maintain the integrity of the TDIU benefit while reducing improper payments. The development and implementation of the upfront verification process for TDIU claimants is anticipated to be completed by July 21, 2017. Meanwhile, VA has reinstituted the data match agreement with SSA through December 2017, which collects earned income (employment wages). The agreement allows VBA to compare reported income earnings of TDIU beneficiaries to earnings actually received. In addition, VA completed the upfront income verification manual guidance and is planning to pilot the guidance prior to implementation. VA also has drafted new manual guidance for the annual eligibility review process and the documents are currently under review. As of March 2017, VA reported delays and stated it planned to fully implement the annual eligibility review process by June 30, 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that TDIU decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, in light of VA's agreement with the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to develop a plan to study the complex TDIU policy questions on (1) whether age should be considered when deciding if veterans are unemployable and (2) whether it is possible to disallow TDIU benefits for veterans whose vocational assessment indicated they would be employable after rehabilitation.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, a VA workgroup is in the final stages of collecting and analyzing the data to determine if age should be a factor in deciding TDIU, and whether or not the agency will use positive vocational assessments to disallow TDIU claims. Additionally, the workgroup is in the process of completing an Inter-Rather Variability Study (IRVA) to examine the disparity in rating decisions involving entitlement to TDIU and service connection. After completion of the internal study on TDIU and the IRVA, targeted for September 30, 2017, he workgroup will submit its preliminary analysis and recommendations and VA will then decide on the next courses of action for future policy decisions. Due to VA's earlier conclusions, in April 2015, that no immediate changes to its current guidance were necessary, and in the spirit of this recommendation, the status will remain open until the completion of these ongoing efforts.
    Director: Mark Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve performance management of the Telecommunications Relay Service, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission should develop specific performance goals and measures for the TRS program. FCC should establish goals that would guide its efforts on major program dimensions--for example, consider goals and performance measures related to, but not limited to, service quality or competition among providers.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: On May 12, 2017, FCC's Liaison reported to us that FCC is working towards implementing these recommendations, but FCC does not have any specific achievements or documentation to report at this time. GAO will continue to monitor and update the status of this rec.
    Recommendation: To improve performance management of the Telecommunications Relay Service, following the establishment of TRS's performance goals, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission should conduct a robust risk assessment that can help FCC design a comprehensive internal-control system.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: On May 12, 2017, FCC's Liaison reported to us that FCC is working towards implementing these recommendations, but FCC does not have any specific achievements or documentation to report at this time. GAO will continue to monitor and update the status of this rec.
    Recommendation: To improve performance management of the Telecommunications Relay Service, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission should improve FCC's communication of TRS rules and procedures to the community of individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities and the companies providing TRS services through the creation and dissemination of a handbook, program manual, or other consolidation of TRS rules and procedures.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: On May 12, 2017, FCC's Liaison reported to us that FCC is working towards implementing these recommendations, but FCC does not have any specific achievements or documentation to report at this time. GAO will continue to monitor and update the status of this rec.
    Director: Dave Wise
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote and enhance federal, state, and local NEMT coordination activities, the Secretary of Transportation, as the chair of the Coordinating Council, should convene a meeting of the member agencies of the Coordinating Council and complete and publish a new or updated strategic plan that, among other things, clearly outlines a strategy for addressing NEMT and how it can be coordinated across federal agencies that fund NEMT service.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) concurred with this recommendation. As of November 2016, FTA stated that Administrator-level members of the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) met in July 2016 to begin the process of developing a strategic plan. A follow-up meeting of the same group is planned for December 2016. According to FTA, it is anticipated this meeting will result in agreement on a strategic plan framework and that interagency working groups will begin implementation of the framework in early 2017. Based on the minutes of the July 2016 CCAM meeting, emerging themes identified for the strategic plan included improved access to medical care and to better coordinate transportation planning, particularly integrating transportation planning into healthcare planning. This recommendation will be kept open pending finalization of the strategic plan framework and how it relates to NEMT.
    Recommendation: To promote and enhance federal, state, and local NEMT coordination activities, the Secretary of Transportation, as the chair of the Coordinating Council, should convene a meeting of the member agencies of the Coordinating Council and finalize and issue a cost-sharing policy and clearly identify how it can be applied to programs under the purview of member agencies of the Coordinating Council that provide funding for NEMT.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: FTA concurred with this recommendation. As of November 2016, FTA stated that Administrator-level members of the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility met in July 2016 to begin the process of developing a strategic plan. A follow-up meeting of the same group is planned for December 2016. According to FTA, it is anticipated the December meeting will result in agreement on a strategic plan framework and that interagency working groups will begin implementing the plan in early 2017. FTA expects development of a cost-sharing policy and proposed model will be an objective in the strategic plan. We plan to keep this recommendation open pending completion of the strategic plan framework and further information related to implementing this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To promote and enhance federal, state, and local NEMT coordination activities, the Secretary of Transportation, as the chair of the Coordinating Council, should convene a meeting of the member agencies of the Coordinating Council and using the on-going work of the Health, Wellness, and Transportation working group and other appropriate resources, (1) identify the challenges associated with coordinating Medicaid and VA NEMT programs with other federal programs that fund NEMT, (2) develop recommendations for how these challenges can be addressed while still maintaining program integrity and fraud prevention, and (3) report these recommendations to appropriate committees of Congress. To the extent feasible, the Coordinating Council should implement those recommendations that are within its legal authority.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: FTA said they concurred in part with this recommendation. FTA announced the selection of 19 Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility pilot projects, totally about $7.3 million, in September 2016. According to FTA, seven of the 19 projects have a NEMT focus. In addition, during 2016 FTA conducted outreach sessions in various cities throughout the United States to discuss partnership opportunities between the health and transportation industries. FTA stated that a new series of NEMT-specific listening sessions is now underway and additional sessions are planned for 2017. The purpose of these sessions is to identify challenges related to NEMT coordination that will be addressed by Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) working groups in the future. CCAM is also in the process of developing a strategic plan framework. FTA anticipates agreement on this framework in December 2016. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act requires CCAM to develop and publish a strategic plan. FTA anticipates issues related to this recommendation will be developed through 2020. We plan to keep this recommendation open to further monitor CCAM and FTA progress and the extent challenges are identified and addressed related to better coordinating Medicaid and VA NEMT with other NEMT programs in the federal government, through the strategic plan framework or other actions resulting from the listening sessions.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As part of initiatives currently under way to improve agency information on claims with appointed representatives and detect potential fraud associated with representatives, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should consider actions to provide more timely access to data on representatives and enhance mechanisms for identifying and monitoring trends and patterns related to representation, particularly trends that may present risks to program integrity. Specifically, SSA could (1) Identify additional data elements, or amendments to current data collection efforts, to improve information on all appointed representatives, including those under contract with states and other third parties; (2) Implement necessary policy changes to ensure these data are collected. This could include enhancing technical systems needed to finalize SSA's 2008 proposed rules that would recognize organizations as representatives; and (3) Establish mechanisms for routine data extracts and reports on claims with representatives.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, SSA reported that it is approaching the conclusion of the first phase of a new initiative, called Registration, Appointment and Services for Representatives (RASR). This initiative aims to register all appointed representatives and improve relevant business processes and data collection. SSA reported that it had to postpone the first release of RASR, originally targeted for December 2016, due to some systems issues. SSA stated that it has not yet set a new target date for the first release. SSA stated that this new application will enhance data collection and management of representatives' information and that it will help make strides toward better oversight and improved data analysis and reporting. We will consider closing this recommendation when these efforts are completed.
    Recommendation: To address risks associated with potential overpayments to representatives and protect claimant benefits, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take steps to enhance coordination with states, counties, and other third parties with the goal of improving oversight and preventing and identifying potential overpayments. This coordination could be conducted in a cost-effective manner, such as issuing guidance to states and other third parties on vulnerabilities for overpayment; sharing best practices on how to prevent overpayments; or considering the costs and benefits, including any privacy and security concerns, of providing third parties controlled access to portions of the eFolder to facilitate the detection of potential overpayments.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, SSA stated that it added a section to a new form--Form SSA-1698, Fee Agreement for Representation before the Social Security Administration--that claimants and representatives can use to enter into fee agreements. According to SSA, this form requires the disclosure of fees that the representative will receive from a third party and the amount of those fees. SSA expects this form to be in use upon OMB approval. Similar language already exists in another form--Form SSA-1560-U4, Petition to Obtain Approval of a Fee for Representing a Claimant before the Social Security Administration--that claimants and representatives can use for fee petitions. SSA stated that these forms are (and will be) included in the folder of evidence that adjudicators may review before determining whether and how much to authorize in fees. According to SSA, disclosure and approval of any third party fees, with potential adjustment of the fee, by both the claimant and SSA should help prevent excessive fees. While the proposed change to the form may help improve transparency of fee arrangements, the potential for a representative to receive a payment from SSA and also receive a payment from a state or other third party still exists. Unless SSA and the state or other third party share information on their payments or have policies and procedures in place to prevent such cases, representatives could still receive both SSA and state payments that total more than the SSA-authorized fee. In order to address this vulnerability, we continue to believe that SSA should enhance coordination or issue guidance to states and other third parties about this vulnerability, which could include SSA sharing best practices for preventing these types of overpayments. For example, one state requires contracted organizations to submit copies of their signed form 1696 (Appointment of Representative) so the state could verify the representative checked the appropriate box for payment.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to address potential disincentives for staff to detect and prevent physician-assisted fraud, SSA should review the standards used to assess DDS performance; and develop and distribute promising practices to incentivize staff to better balance the goal of processing claims promptly with the equally important goal of identifying and reporting evidence of potential fraud.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA partially agreed with this recommendation, citing that their employees take their stewardship responsibilities seriously and that field office and disability determination services (DDS) employees are the agency's first and best line of defense against fraud. In 2016, the agency reported that it was working with experts in its OIG and Office of Anti-Fraud Programs to develop and disseminate promising practices on identifying and reporting fraud. We will close this recommendation once SSA takes steps to review its standards for assessing DDS performance and disseminates the best practices it is developing.
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to address the potential risks associated with medical evidence submitted by sanctioned physicians, SSA should evaluate the threat posed by this information and, if warranted, consider changes to its policies and procedures.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 2016, SSA reported that it was pursuing several options to address the potential risks of medical evidence submitted by sanctioned physicians. This included determining how it could use licensure information from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities. SSA stated that it believes the best opportunity to further evaluate the possible review of the license statuses of medical evidence providers is in conjunction with the implementation of the National Vendor File, part of the national Disability Case Processing System, which is under development. In addition, SSA reported it had drafted two Social Security Rulings to define fraud and to provide processes for disregarding evidence and making redeterminations in disability claims when there is reason to believe that fraudulent evidence was provided. We will close this recommendation once SSA articulates a strategy for using license status information in the vendor file and it finalizes its rulings.
    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the agency to detect and prevent potential physician-assisted fraud, and to help ensure new initiatives that use analytics to identify potential fraud schemes are successful, SSA should develop an implementation plan that identifies both short- and long-term actions, including: (1) timeframes for implementation; (2) resources and staffing needs; (3) data requirements, e.g., the collection of unique medical provider information; (4) how technology improvement will be integrated into existing technology improvements such as the Disability Case Processing System and National Vendor File; and (5) how different initiatives will interact and support each other.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Since fiscal year 2015, SSA has taken several steps that will help the agency to combat fraud, waste, and abuse. SSA established the Office of Anti-Fraud Programs to provide centralized oversight and accountability for the agency's initiatives, which, in consultation with the Office of the Inspector General and other SSA components, will lead the development of SSA's anti-fraud initiatives and activities. This includes efforts to mitigate fraud through data analytics that utilize SSA's existing data systems. SSA developed a strategic plan for fiscal years 2016-2018 to guide its anti-fraud efforts that includes the use of data analytics. However, this plan does not specifically address actions to combat potential physician-assisted fraud. As of April 2017, SSA stated that it continued to develop a fraud management strategy that is consistent with the leading practices identified in GAO's report. Once the strategy is complete, SSA plans to conduct a fraud risk assessment on its major lines of business, beginning with the disability program in fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor SSA's progress to identify and prevent fraud schemes that include physicians.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Based on GAO's review, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Special Education Programs to increase transparency regarding the timeliness of due process hearing decisions for Congress and better target its monitoring and technical assistance to states, revise its performance measure to collect information from states on the amount of time that extensions add to due process hearing decisions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: : In April 2017, Education reported that it had developed and implemented a plan to monitor states with 10 or more fully adjudicated hearings in a given year where at least 75 percent of the decisions are issued with extended timelines. Specifically, the agency reported it was actively monitoring 6 states meeting these criteria. It would also provide technical assistance to states, as appropriate, to facilitate more timely resolution of due process disputes. Education also reported that it would gather information on the burden and cost of revising its performance measure, however, as of June 2017, it had not provided documentation that it had done so. While these are positive steps, we will consider closing this recommendation when Education's revises its performance measure on the timeliness of due process hearing decisions.
    Recommendation: Based on GAO's review, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Special Education Programs to assist its oversight of dispute resolution, take steps to improve the comparability of parental involvement data while minimizing the burden to states, and use the data for better management decision making. Steps to consider could include establishing and requiring that states follow standard data collection and analysis procedures.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY15, Education reported that the IDEA Data Center, in relation to the parent involvement portion of the audit, has continued review of APR [need to spell out] indicator B8 to collect information related to data collection methods, results, and improvement activities for the indicator summary for OSEP. It also began reviewing existing sources for information on how parent data are collected and best practices/ exemplars that are publicly available. In April 2017, Education reported it would direct Parent Technical Assistance Centers and other Education-funded centers to work together to develop and disseminate materials to assist states in analyzing and using parental involvement data to improve the provision of special education services. We believe this effort could help individual states improve methods for analyzing and using parental involvement data. However, we await documentation that such materials were developed and distributed. Also, it is unclear how it would improve the comparability of parental involvement data across states and allow Education to accurately assess states' performance on this IDEA indicator.
    Director: Bertoni, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to develop new measures of long-term employment that go beyond the minimum 60 days of post-placement monitoring that is currently required. In developing measures, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to consider the feasibility of using results from planned post-closure surveys of veterans as a data source.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, VA continues to develop its new Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Case Management System (VRE-CMS). The expected date of implementation for this system is September 2018, and it will enable VA to track participants' status post-case closure. VA indicated that after this system has been operational for six months and initial data have been collected on participants' post-case closure outcomes, the agency will develop new performance metrics tied to these outcomes. VA also indicated that it is exploring the possibility of tracking VR&E participants post-closure earnings data through a data sharing agreement with the Social Security Administration. To close this recommendation as implemented, VA will need to demonstrate that it has developed and implemented performance metrics related to long-term employment outcomes.
    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: Bertoni, Daniel
    Phone: (202)512-5988

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The incoming Commissioner of Social Security should determine if realigning the agency's headquarters, regional, or field office structure could yield increases in the agency's effectiveness and efficiency by launching an exploratory effort to assess the utility and feasibility of such a realignment or consolidation. These efforts could include holding discussions with other federal agencies, such as the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service, to learn about their experiences undergoing similar transformations and studying the likely costs and benefits of consolidation, as well as other potential impacts.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA has determined that it will realign its office structure to support expanded online service delivery, but the agency has not yet taken steps to fully assess the utility and feasibility of such a realignment, such as studying the likely costs, benefits, and other potential impacts. In its March 2014 Agency Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014-2018, SSA stated its intent to expand online services and encourage customers to conduct business with SSA online and said that the agency will streamline its field office structure, as well as its administrative office structure, to reduce costs and make the best use of its employees' time and skills. SSA also consulted with other federal agencies to learn about their experiences with similar efforts. In its April 2015 Vision 2025 document, SSA stated that the agency will align its physical infrastructure to efficiently meet customer and business needs. However, SSA needs to take additional concrete steps, such as defining specific actions the agency will need to take and resources required to achieve this vision.
    Director: Bagdoyan, Seto J
    Phone: (202) 512-4749

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider granting Labor the additional authority it is seeking to access wage data to help verify claimants' reported income and help ensure the proper payment of benefits.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislation introduced as of February 2017. The Workers' Compensation Reform Act of 2015 (S. 2051, title V) was introduced in the 114th Congress. It would have allowed DOL to access wage data, as GAO suggested in April 2013, from the National Directory of New Hires to improve the integrity of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act program, among other actions. If introduced in the 115th Congress and enacted, this legislation could help to prevent and detect improper payments in the Federal Employees' Compensation Act program.
    Director: Wise, David J
    Phone: (202)512-5731

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve NTD data collection for ADA paratransit,the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to provide guidance to transit agencies on how to accurately complete existing ADA paratransit fields.

    Agency: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Federal Register final notice on April 7, 2015, shows that FTA is eliminating the collection of certain ADA paratransit data (trips and expenses) from the NTD. This clarification instructs respondents on how to exclude data for demand-responsive services that are not ADA paratransit. We are reviewing the documentation and will make a decision regarding closing this recommendation as implemented at the conclusion of our review.
    Director: Bertoni, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that SSA's disability decisions are as equitable and consistent with modern views of disability as possible, the Commissioner of Social Security should conduct limited and focused studies on the availability and effects of considering more fully assistive devices and workplace accommodations in its disability determinations.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: On September 30, 2015 a committee convened by the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine initiated a study on assistive technology and workplace accommodations. As of April, 2017, SSA reported that the committee held public sessions on May 16, 2016, July 18, 2016, and September 27, 2016 at which several experts presented on relevant topics. The committee will use the information from these presentations along with their own research and literature to review and provide findings and conclusions for their final report which is expected by July 31, 2017. In April 2017, SSA also indicated it has collected additional information on consideration of reasonable accommodations through the Idea Scale system--a crowd sourcing technology. Depending on the results of the HMD study, SSA may potentially collect additional information on work accommodations through the Bureau of Labor Statistics' OIS project. We will continue to monitor the status and results of the HMD analysis and SSA's actions based on the committee's results and recommendations.
    Director: Dicken, John E
    Phone: (202)512-7043

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help states identify and address quality-of-care concerns among individuals with developmental disabilities receiving Medicaid HCBS waiver services, the Administrator of CMS should encourage states to (1) include death as a critical incident and conduct mortality reviews if they do not already do so and (2) broaden their mortality review processes if they already include death as a critical incident and conduct mortality reviews.

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

    Comments: In August 2009, CMS stated that it anticipated adding a question about mortality reviews to its next web-based version of the Home and Community-Based Services waiver application. CMS also indicated at that time that the next application version (i.e., Version 3.6) would be released in 2010. However, in July 2010, CMS indicated that this version would not be produced until 2011. In its 2011 update, CMS indicated that the version 3.6 online application had not yet been operationalized and therefore the recommendation should be left open until next year. In July 2013, CMS stated that version 3.6 remains on hold and that the agency is exploring other options for addressing this recommendation, with a target completion date of 12/31/2014.