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    Subject Term: Wages

    10 publications with a total of 26 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider establishing an independent commission to comprehensively examine the U.S. retirement system and make recommendations to clarify key policy goals for the system and improve how the nation can promote more stable retirement security. We suggest that such a commission include representatives from government agencies, employers, the financial services industry, unions, participant advocates, and researchers, among others, to help inform policymakers on changes needed to improve the current U.S. retirement system.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Brenda S. Farrell
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the management of the Armed Forces Sports Program and better determine whether the program is achieving its desired results, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop and implement performance measures for the Armed Forces Sports Program that measure the desired outcomes for the program and, at a minimum, demonstrate linkage to the program's goals or mission, have a measurable target, and include a baseline that can be used to demonstrate program performance.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOD acknowledged the issuance of our final report and concurred with this recommendation. We will provide an update when we confirm the actions DOD takes to develop and implement performance measures for the Armed Forces Sports Program.
    Director: Charles Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that current vesting policies appropriately balance plans' needs and interests with the needs of workers to have employment mobility while also saving for retirement, Treasury should evaluate the appropriateness of existing maximum vesting policies for account-based plans, considering today's mobile labor force, and seek legislative action to revise vesting schedules, if deemed necessary. The Department of Labor could provide assistance with such an evaluation.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury did not provide formal comments for this recommendation. The Department of Labor's comments noted that Treasury and IRS will consult with them on subjects of joint interest and Labor will provide assistance as requested. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To help participants better understand eligibility and vesting policies, the Department of Labor (DOL) should develop guidance for plan sponsors that identifies best practices for communicating information about eligibility and vesting policies in a clear manner in summary plan descriptions. For example, DOL could discourage plans from including in documents information about employer contributions or other provisions that are not actually being used by the plan sponsor.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor disagreed with this recommendation stating that it would not be appropriate at this time to reallocate resources from its existing priority projects to a new project to identify "best practices" for communicating information about eligibility and vesting policies in a clear manner in the summary plan descriptions. The agency noted that in FY17, it will review its existing outreach material on plan administration and compliance for opportunities to highlight the issues and recommendations in our report. It will also consider this recommendation in its ongoing development and prioritization of EBSA's agenda for regulations and sub-regulatory guidance.
    Recommendation: To help increase plan participation and individuals' retirement savings, Congress should consider updating ERISA's 401(k) plan eligibility provisions to extend plan eligibility to otherwise eligible workers at an age earlier than 21.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this matter.
    Recommendation: To help increase plan participation and individuals' retirement savings, Congress should consider updating ERISA's 401(k) plan eligibility provisions to amend the definition of "year of service," given the prevalence of part-time workers in today's workforce.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    Recommendation: Congress should consider whether ERISA's provisions related to the timing of employer matching contributions need to be adjusted to reflect today's mobile workforce and workplace plans, which are predominantly 401(k) plans offering matching employer contributions.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    Recommendation: Congress should consider whether ERISA's provisions related to last day policies need to be adjusted to reflect today's mobile workforce and workplace plans, which are predominantly 401(k) plans offering matching employer contributions.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    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: Michael Courts
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsors provide complete and consistent lists of fees that participants must pay.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsor provide complete and consistent lists of fees that exchange visitors on the Summer Work Travel program must pay, State acknowledged it collected such fee information in 2016. As of August 3, 2017, we are awaiting State's review and analysis of this information to ensure the price lists are consistent and comprehensive.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to establish a mechanism to ensure that information about these participant fees is made publicly available.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that information about Summer Work Travel participant fees is made publically available, State noted that it had published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require would require each sponsor to include in its recruiting material, and post on its main Web site (e.g., with a visible link to such a page on the sponsor?s homepage), examples of the typical monthly budgets of exchange visitors placed in various regions of the United States to illustrate wages (based on the required weekly minimum of 32-hours of work at a typical host placement) balanced against itemized fees and estimated costs. Until State finalizes this rule, they cannot enforce this requirement. As of July 27, 2017, this information was not available to the public on the six sponsor websites we checked.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish detailed criteria that will allow State to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to SWT participants.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish detailed criteria that will allow it to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to Summer Work Travel participants, State published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require sponsors and their host entities to create cultural opportunities at least once per month. The proposed rule also notes that State will issue guidance outlining best practices for cross-cultural programming. As of July 27, 2017 this is not finalized.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote effective operation of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Congress may wish to consider amending the commission's authorizing statute to clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of the commission chairperson, commissioners, and staff director, such as who has the authority to develop and implement commission operating policies and procedures, to manage commission staff, and to represent commission decisions and views, including those views expressed on commission letterhead.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: A Senate Committee on Appropriations report released on June 16, 2015, which accompanied a bill that provided for the Commission's FY 2016 appropriations, included a provision that directed the Commission to address one of the issues highlighted in our recommendation. Specifically, the report calls for the Commission to limit the use of letterhead to items that reflect the views of the entire Commission.
    Recommendation: To more fully inform congressional consideration of the commission's fiscal year 2016 budget submission, the commission should develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees a comprehensive workforce plan that assesses skills needed and the appropriate distribution of commission staff to fulfill the agency's mission and statutory responsibilities. This plan should incorporate relevant information from the report that Congress recently directed the commission to provide.

    Agency: Commission on Civil Rights
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Commission on Civil Rights stated that the Commissioners will work closely with the incoming Staff Director, once the President makes an appointment, to develop a comprehensive workforce plan. The agency stressed the importance of involving the new Staff Director in this process. We recognize the importance of involving the Staff Director - the agency's chief administrative official - in an analysis of the Commission's workforce and look forward to the results of this analysis.
    Recommendation: To enhance the commission's consideration of State Advisory Committee work in planning its National Office projects, the commission should increase the visibility of SAC work at commission meetings. For example, the commission could invite SACs to present the results of their work during monthly commission business meetings.

    Agency: Commission on Civil Rights
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Commission on Civil Rights highlighted several initiatives that it plans to consider, pending resource availability, to better highlight and consider the work of its state advisory committees (SAC). First, the agency stated that it would like to re-introduce an annual conference where SAC chairs from around the country can meet and share information. Second, the agency stated that it is looking to leverage technology, such as video conferencing and live streaming, to allow the general public and stakeholders to view SAC meetings. Lastly, the agency stated that the Commission's Chair is planning to develop a list-serve for SAC chairs, send out monthly updates to SACs, and institute quarterly conference calls between the Chair, Vice Chair, and SAC Chairs. We are encouraged by the Commission's efforts to explore ways to better engage with SACs and look forward to the implementation of these planned actions.
    Director: Yvonne D. Jones
    Phone: (202) 512-2717

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that agencies report comparable and reliable data to Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI), the Director of OPM, in coordination with agencies and payroll service providers, should develop guidance for agencies on which activities to enter, or not enter, as paid administrative leave in agency time and attendance systems.

    Agency: Office of Personnel Management
    Status: Open

    Comments: To address agency use of paid administrative leave that may exceed reasonable amounts as well as discrepancies in recording and reporting paid administrative leave, in December 2016, Congress passed the "Administrative Leave Act of 2016." The act mandates new categories of paid leave, including "investigative leave," "notice leave," and "weather and safety leave" and sets limitations on the duration of paid administrative leave as well as the new categories of investigative and notice leave. The Act also requires OPM to establish regulations on (1) when to grant administrative leave and the other new categories of paid leave, and (2) the proper recording and reporting of these types of paid leave. In July 2017, OPM proposed new rules to regulate paid administrative leave, which it will finalize after the public comment period ends in August 2017. In addition, in response to our recommendation, in May 2015, OPM issued a fact sheet on administrative leave, which discusses the appropriate use of an agency's administrative leave authority, including a definition of administrative leave as well as applicable government-wide, individual agency, and emergency policies on the use of administrative leave. However, this fact sheet will need to be revised to reflect the new regulations when they are in effect. Once finalized, the proposed rules, along with updated fact sheet guidance, should help agencies and federal employees appropriately use, record, and report administrative leave. We will update the status of this recommendation once the regulations are finalized and the fact sheet guidance is revised.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that agencies report comparable and reliable data to EHRI, the Director of OPM, in coordination with agencies and payroll service providers, should provide updated and specific guidance to payroll service providers on which activities to report, or not report, to the paid administrative leave data element in EHRI.

    Agency: Office of Personnel Management
    Status: Open

    Comments: To address agency use of paid administrative leave that may exceed reasonable amounts as well as discrepancies in recording and reporting paid administrative leave, in December 2016, Congress passed the "Administrative Leave Act of 2016." The act mandates new categories of paid leave, including "investigative leave," "notice leave," and "weather and safety leave" and sets limitations on the duration of paid administrative leave as well as the new categories of investigative and notice leave. The Act also requires OPM to establish regulations on (1) when to grant administrative leave and the other new categories of paid leave, and (2) the proper recording and reporting of these types of paid leave. In July 2017, OPM proposed new rules to regulate paid administrative leave, which it will finalize after the public comment period ends in August 2017. OPM officials reported in June 2017 that they are working with payroll providers to revise reporting requirements. Once finalized, the proposed rules, along with updated guidance to payroll providers for reporting paid administrative leave and the new leave categories, should help agencies report comparable and reliable data to EHRI. We will update the status of this recommendation once the regulations are finalized and the guidance is revised.
    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: 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: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to better assess whether changes are needed in the way IRS administers activities not engaged in for profit provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take steps to estimate the extent of activities not engaged in for profit noncompliance from its ongoing research programs.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS is researching sole proprietor noncompliance, as GAO recommended in September 2009. It is focusing on those who improperly claim business losses (i.e., not profits). IRS's Office of Research, Analysis and Statistics is using the reporting compliance study of Form 1040 filers to gather the data on such noncompliant business losses. This research covered sampled tax returns filed for tax years 2009, 2010, and 2011 and used audits of the sampled tax returns that are filed for each tax year. In November 2016, IRS research officials provided the initial rough estimates of the percentage of disallowed losses and associated dollar amounts for all 3 tax years but as of March 2017, they had not yet indicated how these estimates helped IRS to understand the nature of the tax noncompliance. The officials cautioned that their ability to develop the estimates depends on the number of observations that can be applied from each tax year. This research, when completed, could help IRS to identify noncompliant sole proprietor issues and take action to reduce losses.