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    Subject Term: Workers

    26 publications with a total of 82 open recommendations including 6 priority recommendations
    Director: Zina D. Merritt
    Phone: (202) 512-5257

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To clarify the flat rate per diem policy and ensure that the department has the full range of information needed by decision-makers when considering a major Joint Travel Regulations change, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, in coordination with the Military and Civilian Advisory Panels, to revise the Joint Travel Regulations policy related to the flat rate per diem to provide clear language concerning (1) what is meant by proof of lodging, and (2) at what point in the travel process the meals and incidental expenses waiver for actual expenses should be requested and approved.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To clarify the flat rate per diem policy and ensure that the department has the full range of information needed by decision-makers when considering a major Joint Travel Regulations change, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, in coordination with the Military and Civilian Advisory Panels, to establish procedures to ensure that required processes to inform major Joint Travel Regulations policy changes are completed prior to the approval of those changes.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To clarify the flat rate per diem policy and ensure that the department has the full range of information needed by decision-makers when considering a major Joint Travel Regulations change, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, in coordination with the Military and Civilian Advisory Panels, to incorporate principles from Office of Management and Budget Circular A-94, including the costs and benefits of effects that may be difficult to quantify or monetize, into future assessments related to major Joint Travel Regulations changes.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To clarify the flat rate per diem policy and ensure that the department has the full range of information needed by decision-makers when considering a major Joint Travel Regulations change, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, in coordination with the Military and Civilian Advisory Panels, to incorporate principles from Office of Management and Budget Circular A-94, including the costs and benefits of effects that may be difficult to quantify or monetize, into future assessments related to the flat rate per diem policy, such as the draft Performance Measurement Plan.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

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

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to implement the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014 requirements related to reporting on advanced manufacturing, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, working through the National Science and Technology Council and agency leadership, as appropriate, should identify the information they will collect from federal agencies to determine the extent to which the objectives outlined in the National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing are being achieved.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSTP did not state whether it agreed or disagreed with this recommendation. They provided some comments on the draft recommendation. For example, OSTP commented that the recommendation could focus on the extent to which the objectives of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) recommendations are being achieved in periodic updates to the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. However, these recommendations were not covered in the scope of our report: we focused on reporting on the progress in achieving the objectives of the strategic plan.
    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: Brown Barnes, Cindy S
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to make changes to the contractor scheduling list development process so that compliance efforts focus on those contractors with the greatest risk of not following equal employment opportunity and affirmative action requirements.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) agreed with this recommendation and is taking steps to address it. DOL noted its past work to improve its ability to identify federal contractor establishments under its jurisdiction. The agency is also committed to improving the scheduling process and using its resources more efficiently. DOL noted that its recently proposed EEO-1 pay data collection will provide more detailed information on federal contractor compensation disparity patterns, which they believe will strengthen the selection process. Finally, the agency reported that it is committed to improving its ability to focus on contractors with the greatest risk of noncompliance.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to develop a mechanism to monitor AAPs from covered federal contractors on a regular basis. Such a mechanism could include electronically collecting AAPs and contractor certification of annual updates.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with this recommendation and reported that it will fully explore the operational implications and funding requirements.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to make changes to the current scheduling list distribution process so that it addresses changes in human capital and does not rely exclusively on geographic location.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) agreed with this recommendation. DOL reported that it will explore the logistics of non-geographically based compliance evaluations in its review of contractors with Functional Affirmative Action Programs. The agency will also explore establishment based cross-regional case transfers, and continue to implement improved case distribution approaches in future scheduling lists.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to provide timely and uniform training to new staff, as well as provide continuing training opportunities to assist compliance officers in maintaining a level of competence to help ensure quality and consistency of evaluations across regions and district offices.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with this recommendation and noted past and future efforts to address it. To date, the agency has conducted many webinars to build staff knowledge and skills; implemented a Front Line Manager Leadership Development Program to enhance leadership and technical skills; hosted an all-staff regional training in FY16 to hone the staff's technical skills; developed a training plan in FY16 to assess employee training needs and address the needs of compliance officers at various stages of their careers; and conducted a training needs assessment in FY16 to identify the performance requirements and competencies needed by agency staff. Based on the results of the needs assessment, the agency plans to develop the "Compliance Officer Continuous Education Success Program," a three-year program to ensure that compliance officers receive timely and consistent instruction. They will also formalize its use of training-related work groups to ensure training is responsive to employer needs, and leverage different instructional methods, such as classroom and web-based training.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to review outreach and compliance assistance efforts and identify options for improving information provided to federal contractors and workers to enhance their understanding of nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements to ensure equal employment opportunities for protected workers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) agreed with this recommendation and is taking steps to address it. The agency plans to expand stakeholder engagement practices, such as consultations with federal contractors, to determine what additional guidance is needed to support contractor compliance with OFCCP regulations and increase contractor awareness of resources, such as its Help Desk and EEO Tabulation. OFCCP will also build on prior outreach that has included live and virtual events (e.g., focus groups, round tables) and explore ways to disseminate promising practices.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal contractors are complying with equal employment opportunity requirements, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Director of OFCCP to assess existing contractor guidance for clarity to ensure that contractors have information that helps them better understand their responsibilities regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements to ensure equal employment opportunities for protected workers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted past efforts demonstrating its commitment to quality guidance, such as by increasing online resources and tools available to stakeholders, and revising outdated regulations and guidance with input from stakeholders.
    Director: Brenda S. Farrell
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help support DOD management of its FECA responsibilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in collaboration with the Secretaries of the military departments and other defense agency leaders, to monitor timelines associated with significant FECA claims-management actions in order to identify the extent to which delays or inefficiencies may be occurring and at what points in the process; to identify any known reasons for the delays; and to communicate this information to DOL as appropriate for consideration and action.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

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

    6 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To ensure that key information provided by claims specialists to potential claimants of Social Security retirement benefits is clear and consistent with POMS, the Commissioner of the SSA should take steps to ensure when applicable, claims specialists inform that delaying claiming will result in permanently higher monthly benefit amounts, and at least offer to provide claimants their estimated benefits at their current age, at full retirement age (FRA) (unless the claimant is already older than FRA), and age 70.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them to 1) inform claimants that delaying results in permanently higher benefits; and 2) provide estimated benefits at different claiming ages. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages about these requirements to claims specialists. Further, SSA should have field office managers periodically discuss best practices for providing this information to potential claimants at office training sessions.
    Recommendation: To ensure that key information provided by claims specialists to potential claimants of Social Security retirement benefits is clear and consistent with POMS, the Commissioner of the SSA should take steps to ensure claims specialists understand that they should avoid the use of breakeven analysis to compare benefits at different claiming ages.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them not to use breakeven analysis or discuss breakeven points with claimants to compare benefits at different claiming ages. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages to claims specialist to ensure that they understand the requirement to avoid use of breakeven analysis to compare benefits at different claiming ages.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that when applicable, claims specialists inform claimants that monthly benefit amounts are determined by the highest (indexed) 35 years of earnings, and that in some cases, additional work could increase benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA reported that, as appropriate, it will issue a reminder to technicians or include instructions in SSA's Program and Operations Manual System (POMS) to reinforce the instructions. The agency did not provide information on how it plans to include this information in the online claims process.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that when appropriate, claims specialists clearly explain the retirement earnings test and inform claimants that any benefits withheld because of earnings above the earnings limit will result in higher monthly benefits starting at FRA.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them to inform claimants that any amounts withheld due to earnings (over limits) will result in higher benefits later on. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages to claims specialist reinforcing the importance of explaining the earnings test, and informing potential claimants that any benefits withheld due to earnings will result in higher benefits starting at FRA. Further, SSA should have field office managers periodically discuss best practices for providing this information to potential claimants at office training sessions.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that claims specialists explain that lump sum retroactive benefits will result in a permanent reduction of monthly benefits. For the online claiming process, SSA should evaluate removing or revising the online question that asks claimants to provide a reason for not choosing retroactive benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA stated that it will issue a reminder to technicians, instructing them to explain that a lump sum retroactive benefit would result in a permanent reduction in monthly benefits; or include instructions in SSA's Program and Operations Manual System (POMS). As for the question included in the online process, SSA said it will explore the underlying rationale for this question and consider modifying the question.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that the claims process include basic information on how life expectancy and longevity risk may affect the decision to claim benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA updated Pub No. 05-10147 to mention that: 1) monthly benefits are higher for the rest of one's life the longer one delays claiming; 2) retirement may be longer than you think; and 3) for married couples, delaying claiming may increase survivor benefits. SSA also added a new question on this topic to its frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, "At what age should I start receiving my Social Security Retirement benefits?" The answer provides key information for individuals to consider, and links to the newly updated publication, the Retirement Estimator tool, and other resources that SSA offers. Updating and improving a key publication on this topic is a positive step by the agency. However, it is not clear if claimants will be able to access this information while they are applying for retirement benefits online. Further, SSA did not specify how it plans to instruct claims specialists to provide information on life expectancy and longevity risk during the in-person claims process.
    Director: Kathleen M. King
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve available data about the direct care workforce, the Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration should take steps to produce projections of direct care workforce supply and demand and develop methods to address data limitations in order to do so.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Health Resources and Services Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation, agreeing that developing projections of the direct care workforce is timely and important. Since the release of the report, HHS's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) published a fact sheet presenting national demand projections for nursing assistants and home health aides. HRSA also reported awarding a contract to develop a projection model for the supply, demand, and distribution of long-term service and support providers. The agency expects reports from this model to be available in 2018.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    7 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) should help encourage plan sponsors to offer lifetime income options by clarifying the safe harbor from liability for selecting an annuity provider by providing sufficiently detailed criteria to better enable plan sponsors to comply with the safe harbor requirements related to assessing a provider's long-term solvency.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that a clarification might erode consumer protections by degrading the oversight of fiduciaries making such selections and suggested that the plan fiduciaries outsource these decisions to a financial institution as an investment manager under Section 3(38) of ERISA. While we recognize the challenging process for plan sponsors prudently offering an in-plan annuity, we believe this strategy relies on a plan having access to something specific: a deferred annuity embedded in a target date fund and very few plans offer deferred annuities. It is not clear whether such a service would be available and affordable to the bulk of 401(k) plan sponsors.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the DOL should help encourage plan sponsors to offer lifetime income options by considering providing legal relief for plan fiduciaries offering an appropriate mix of annuity and withdrawal options, upon adequately informing participants about the options, before participants choose to direct their investments into them.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL stated that it is open to considering alternative regulatory approaches, and will include the recommendations as part of its ongoing development and prioritization of its agenda. DOL commented that the statutory structure explicitly provided by section 404(c) of ERISA pertaining to "investments" may not extend to annuities, although annuities are included as qualified default investment alternatives already. They also expressed concern that it might move the responsibility for the selection of the annuity provider to the participant, although DOL officials told us they believe plan fiduciaries maintain investment selection responsibility currently under 404(c). DOL suggested an alternative outsourcing solution to put the evaluation of the annuity provider in the hands of fiduciaries with financial expertise without the need of a regulation to reduce the obligations fiduciaries have to protect participants' interests. However, we believe this focuses solely on annuities and does not address the need for the same broad array of alternatives and information about them that 404(c) creates in the accumulation phase. We will close this recommendation when DOL either determines internally that it lacks authority to expand 404(c) to the decumulation phase or shows an intent to solicit stakeholder views as to how a prudent mix of options might be incentivized while maintaining sufficient participant protections.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to use a record keeper that includes annuities from multiple providers on their record keeping platform.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to offer participants the option to partially annuitize their account balance by allowing them the ability to purchase the amount of guaranteed lifetime income most appropriate for them.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to consider whether a contract with a service provider ensures future service provider changes do not cause participants to lose the value of their lifetime income guarantees.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to include participant access to advice on the plan's lifetime income options from an expert in retirement income strategies.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to consider providing RMD-based default income-plan distributions as a default stream of lifetime income based on the RMD methodology-beginning, unless they opt-out, when retirement-age participants separate from employment, rather than after age 70½.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Director: Brenda S. Farrell
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to assess the Triad of Care model's effectiveness in light of the changes in WTU diagnoses and take the appropriate action.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to exercise oversight responsibility to track full adherence to selection processes for squad leaders and platoon sergeants, including the requirement to conduct interviews for these positions.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to develop a mechanism to conduct post-training assessments on squad leaders and platoon sergeants' application of training to the work environment and incorporate the results into the training program.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to develop plans to adjust staff levels, if needed, to accommodate a potential future surge in demand.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to establish a process that assigns oversight responsibility for tracking instances in which Commanders make exceptions to WTU entrance criteria so that the Army Surgeon General is aware of the extent Commanders' decisions are consistent with program goals.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To increase oversight of the Army's Warrior Transition Unit program, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Army Surgeon General to develop and implement an approach and associated procedures for providing senior leadership, such as the Warrior Transition Command, with complaints information concerning the WTU program and WTU soldiers.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the best use of resources for managing the medical care of soldiers recovering from serious medical conditions, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Chief of the Army Reserve, in conjunction with the Army Surgeon General, to develop an analysis that compares the costs and benefits of maintaining the current system of Community Care Units with the costs and benefits of expanding the Reserve Component Managed Care program.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Valerie C. Melvin
    Phone: (202) 512-6304

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for implementing, and take actions to implement, section 508 requirements in the department's FOIA system and online portal.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions meet the intent of our recommendation. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for implementing, and take actions to fully implement, recommended best practice capabilities for enhanced processing of requests in the department's FOIA system and online portal.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to require components to document in the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA the rationales for delays in responding to FOIA requests, and to notify requesters of the delayed responses when processing requests.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for consulting with the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy on including language in DOL's response letters to administrative appeals notifying requesters of the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of Government Information Services' mediation services as an alternative to litigation, and then ensure that the department includes the language in the letters.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Director: Cindy Brown Barnes
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen DOL's efforts to ensure employers protect the safety and health of workers at meat and poultry plants, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, working together with the Commissioner of Labor Statistics as appropriate, to develop and implement a cost-effective method for gathering more complete data on musculoskeletal disorders.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that its implementation would make a difference in working conditions in the meat and poultry industry. The agency also noted that resource constraints may make it difficult to implement.
    Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers' injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health and the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to study how they could regularly gather data on injury and illness rates among sanitation workers in the meat and poultry industry.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that its implementation would make a difference in working conditions in the meat and poultry industry. The agency also noted that resource constraints may make it difficult to implement.
    Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers' injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct a study of the injuries and illnesses these workers experience, including their causes and how they are reported. Given the challenges to gaining access to this population, NIOSH may want to coordinate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop ways to initiate this study.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation and noted the previous difficulties NIOSH has had gaining access to these workplaces and the potential resource commitment involved in conducting such a study. We acknowledge this access challenge and noted in our report that OSHA has negotiated access for NIOSH in other industries, hence the rationale for recommending that NIOSH may want to coordinate with OSHA. The agency reported that it would reach out to stakeholders, such as worker unions, USDA and OSHA, to discuss the range of types of study that could be conducted to provide useful information. GAO will await the progress of this effort and close the recommendation when the agency initiates a study.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance consistency with DOL policy and procedures in adjudicating EEOICPA Part E claims, the Secretary of Labor should strengthen internal controls by requiring district offices to take steps to ensure that all claimant correspondence for Recommended and Final Decisions receives supervisory review.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with our recommendation that a second level review will provide a higher degree of internal quality control. However, upon evaluating our recommendation, Labor determined that given its current staffing levels it would not be possible to conduct a supervisory review of all Recommended and Final Decisions without having an adverse impact on the issuance of timely decisions for claimants. Instead, Labor is implementing a process to review a sample of decision letters - initially 10 percent - and make procedural adjustments based on the results of those reviews. We will revisit the status of this recommendation pending the results of Labor's supervisory reviews of selected decision letters.
    Recommendation: To enhance consistency with DOL policy and procedures in adjudicating EEOICPA Part E claims, the Secretary of Labor should strengthen internal controls by requiring district offices to document that the SEM was checked for updates just prior to issuing a Recommended Decision to deny a claim in cases in which the date of the last SEM update has not changed since the claims examiner's prior check.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with our recommendation pertaining to documenting searches of the Site Exposure Matrix during claims processing. Labor stated that it has implemented the recommendation by updating relevant guidance in the Federal EEOICPA Procedure Manual. We will update the status of this recommendation pending verification that the Procedure Manual was revised to require claims examiners to document that, before denying a claim they checked the Site Exposure Matrix to ensure pertinent information had not changed since the examiner's prior check.
    Director: Charles A. Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help workers make appropriate adjustments to the replacement rates used in calculating their specific retirement income needs, the Secretary of Labor should modify its retirement planning tools to allow for some user flexibility in adjusting the replacement rate used in calculating retirement income needs.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Labor (DOL) officials told us that the agency has updated the instructions to add more information on common situations that would impact a worker's replacement rate. DOL officials also said the department is in the process of developing expanded options for the target saving rate worksheet/calculator. They said this would include identifying the data points needed from the user and adjustments to the user interface (to keep it user friendly) as well as the underlying calculations needed to provide alternative replacement rates within a generally acceptable range. Allowing workers to adjust the replacement rates used when calculating their retirement income needs would help workers better estimate what their individual planning needs may be. We will consider closing this recommendation when this effort has been completed.
    Director: Charles A. Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address the legal uncertainty stemming from ERISA preemption of state laws while maintaining the advantages of ERISA for both employers and workers, Congress should consider providing states limited flexibility to pursue efforts to increase coverage under workplace retirement savings programs. To do this, Congress could, for example, direct or authorize the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to (1) promulgate regulations prescribing a limited safe harbor under which state workplace retirement savings programs with sufficient safeguards would not be preempted and would receive tax treatment comparable to that provided to private sector workplace retirement savings programs, or (2) create a pilot program under which DOL could select a limited number of states to establish workplace retirement savings programs subject to DOL and Treasury oversight. In either case, any such initiative should ensure that state programs include adequate participant protections and are subject to agency oversight, appropriate reporting requirements, and meaningful evaluation.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken to date.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation. To address uncertainty facing state efforts, EBSA is initiating a regulatory agenda entitled ?Saving Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees,? which will appear in the Fall 2015 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda. On November 18, 2015, DOL published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on state payroll deduction IRA programs. Under the proposed rule, employers complying with the state law requirements would not create a retirement plan subject to ERISA as long as the state and the employer follows certain rules. They also also published a companion Interpretive Bulletin on the same day that describes ways in which states can promote the creation of ERISA-covered plans, fully subject to ERISA?s rules and protections, without triggering ERISA preemption. The public comment period for the proposed rule closed on January 19, 2016. EBSA is evaluating the 67 public comments submitted (and posted on EBSA?s website) and working towards drafting and clearance of a final rule. EBSA has also been providing technical assistance to several states and other jurisdictions about the Interpretive Bulletin. The Administration?s 2017 Budget also included legislative proposals for piloting innovative, more portable approaches to provide retirement and other employment-based benefits.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation and did not provide additional comments on actions to address it.
    Director: Seto Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    4 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect, prevent, and recover potential DI benefit overpayments due to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits, the Commissioner of Social Security should review the potential DI overpayments resulting from FECA benefits identified in our case studies, as well as any indicators of fraudulent activity related to FECA benefits that were not self-reported by DI beneficiaries, and establish debt-collection efforts and fraud-related penalties, as appropriate.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of January 2017, SSA stated that it will continue reviewing the potential DI overpayments resulting from FECA benefits identified in GAO's case studies, as GAO recommended in July 2015, and that actions are due to be completed by the end of April 2017. GAO will continue to monitor SSA's efforts in this area.
    Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect, prevent, and recover potential DI benefit overpayments due to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits, the Commissioner of Social Security should review the instances described in our report in which SSA staff did not obtain proof of FECA benefits that were reported by DI beneficiaries and (1) determine the reasons for these occurrences and whether this is a pervasive problem; and (2) if necessary, design appropriate controls or make other efforts, such as staff training, to help ensure SSA staff obtain proof of workers' compensation payments, as required by SSA policy.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA stated that it will continue reviewing the instances described in GAO's report in which SSA staff did not obtain proof of FECA benefits that DI beneficiaries reported nor took follow-up actions as needed, as GAO recommended in July 2015. SSA expected to complete its analysis by the end of April 2017. SSA also stated that it has published an administrative message to remind staff of correct development and processing procedures for FECA claims. GAO will continue to monitor SSA's efforts in this area.
    Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect, prevent, and recover potential DI benefit overpayments due to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits, the Commissioner of Social Security should, in accordance with OMB guidance, compare the costs and benefits of alternatives to SSA's current approach for reducing the potential for overpayments that result from the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits, which relies on beneficiaries to self-report any FECA benefits they receive. These alternatives could include, among others, routinely matching DOL's FECA program data with DI program data to detect potential DI overpayments.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: SSA has taken steps to address this recommendation, but it has not completed its efforts. Specifically, in February 2017, SSA told GAO that the agency continues to discuss with DOL a data-matching agreement to obtain FECA payment data for offsetting DI benefits in accordance with federal law, as GAO recommended in July 2015. SSA also stated that it has reviewed its internal controls, policies, and workflow processes related to DI beneficiaries who receive concurrent FECA payments. Because SSA has not completed its work in this area, it is too early to determine whether these actions will address the problems GAO identified. GAO will continue to monitor SSA's work in this area.
    Recommendation: To improve SSA's ability to detect, prevent, and recover potential DI benefit overpayments due to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits, the Commissioner of Social Security should strengthen internal controls designed to prevent DI overpayments due to the concurrent receipt of FECA benefits by implementing the alternative that provides the greatest net benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: SSA has taken steps to address this recommendation, but it has not completed its efforts. Specifically, in February 2017, SSA told GAO that the agency was negotiating with DOL to enter into a data matching agreement to obtain FECA payment data for offsetting DI benefits in accordance with federal law, as GAO recommended in July 2015. SSA also stated that it was reviewing its internal controls related to DI beneficiaries who receive concurrent FECA payments and is in the process of considering the best options for strengthening these internal controls. SSA further stated that in August 2016, it issued reminders to technicians regarding developing and processing DI cases when an individual is concurrently receiving FECA benefits. Because SSA has not completed its work in this area, it is too early to determine whether these actions will address the problems GAO identified. GAO will continue to monitor SSA's work in this area.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better report the occupations filled by H-2B workers who have been approved by DHS, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should implement during its transformation process to an electronic petition form, an occupation classification system that conforms to a national standard.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. USCIS also noted that it is exploring the adoption of a single set of occupation codes across multiple form types, but has not yet made a final decision whether to implement this. USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help potential H-2A and H-2B workers and their advocates better assess employment offers and reduce their vulnerability to abuse, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should, during its transformation to an electronic petition form, ensure that petition job information is collected in an electronic manner and made available to the public as soon as possible following a final adjudication decision. Such job information should include number of positions, wage, and any staffing, placement or recruitment agency the employer plans to use.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. Therefore, USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help protect workers from being hired by employers who have been debarred from program participation, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, to use all employer-related information it collects on debarred employers to screen new applications.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, the agency noted that it continues to screen for debarred employers in two ways: 1) by adding debarred employers to its iCERT System, which matches incoming employer applications using the federal Employer Identification Number; and 2) by conducting additional reviews during analyst case adjudications using a more expansive set of employer-related information. While the Employment and Training Administration explored enhancing its iCERT system in 2015 to flag more information on debarred employers, the agency said this enhancement was not pursued due to technical difficulties in matching open text fields (e.g., physical employer addresses).
    Recommendation: To ensure that H-2B workers are adequately protected and that DOL's investigative resources are appropriately focused, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to review its enforcement efforts and conduct a national investigations-based evaluation of H-2B employers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) indicated that it is coordinating closely with the department's Chief Evaluation Office on evaluations and special projects involving data analytics. As a result of that coordination, it is shifting away from large-scale compliance surveys and toward leveraging internal enforcement data and external survey data to assess compliance levels in priority industries. Therefore, WHD is not currently considering a national level survey of the H-2B program. However, WHD indicated that its focus of enforcement resources on industries that employ workers vulnerable to violations of labor laws will include H-2B workers and employers.
    Recommendation: To determine to what extent, if any, the 2-year statute of limitations on debarment limits its use as a remedy for employers who violate program requirements: (1) the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to collect data on the nature of the cases where debarment would have been recommended but was not because the 2-year statute of limitations had expired, and based on that data determine whether to pursue a legislative proposal to extend the statute of limitations; and (2) the Department of Labor Inspector General should direct the Assistant Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations to provide the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, data on the number of referrals for debarment that the Inspector General's Office sent to the department after the 2-year statute of limitations had expired.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL indicated that it was considering the utility of collecting these data in light of the fact that the new H-2B regulations that were issued in April 2015 eliminated the 2-year statute of limitations for the H-2B program. We continue to believe, however, that this data collection would be valuable given that the H-2A program is still subject to the 2-year statute of limitations. The department indicated it is undertaking a modernization of its data systems--by implementing a data governance structure that will manage its data as a business asset--and our recommendation for the collection of these data will be vetted through this process.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Depending on the outcome of the litigation, the Secretary of Labor should take steps to ensure the agency will be positioned to conduct a meaningful retrospective review consistent with the Executive Order at an appropriate time. These steps should be taken in consultation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and could include, for example, identifying metrics that could be used to evaluate the rule, and implementing a plan to gather and analyze the necessary data.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) agreed with this recommendation and reported that it is working to develop data collection plans and explore a potential evaluation that is focused on the Home Care Rule. As part of this effort, WHD noted that it will continue to work with HHS and other federal partners. In FY16, WHD reported that such an evaluation of how stakeholders and affected industries have responded to the rule would be beneficial. However, litigation has delayed implementation and enforcement of the rule significantly, and WHD believes an evaluation at this stage would be premature and would be unlikely to fully and accurately capture stakeholders' responses to the rule and the resulting impacts. Delaying the evaluation would allow WHD to monitor the results of its own investigations and the effects of ongoing compliance assistance, both of which would be extremely difficult to measure at this early stage. WHD will continue to monitor early implementation to determine the appropriate start for any evaluation.
    Director: Yvonne D. Jones
    Phone: (202) 512-2717

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Any federal agency designated to investigate future USERRA claims against federal executive agencies should undertake efforts to increase the response rate of the customer satisfaction survey if it continues to be administered, so more tenable conclusions can be drawn from its data. Such efforts may include follow-up phone calls to nonrespondents, additional email notifications requesting participation in the survey, or making the survey easier to complete and submit.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2016, Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL/VETS) reported their office is handling all USERRA complaints, Federal and non-Federal following conclusion of the demonstration project with OSC. DOL/VETS reported the agency deployed its customer satisfaction survey in May 2016 and will be monitoring and collecting responses on a quarterly basis. The agency plans to employ the same follow-up technique used during the demonstration project and will determine if additional follow-up emails are warranted.
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL concurred with GAO recommendation and stated that it regularly coordinates monitoring and enforcement activities related to assessing and ensuring the consistency of FTA partner countries' labor laws, regulations, and practices with FTA labor provisions with USTR and State. In March 2017, the Monitoring and Enforcement of Trade Agreements Division (META) in DOLs Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) finalized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for monitoring FTA labor provisions and engaging with partner country governments and stakeholders. These SOPs involve a renewed emphasis on monitoring trips to FTA partner countries to meet with government officials and in-country stakeholders to gather information on potential FTA violations and make key contacts with stakeholders to encourage direct communication going forward. The SOPs also include provisions regarding coordination with USTR and State in the monitoring and enforcement of FTA labor provisions. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by DOL and USTR.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns. USTR stated that it is constantly exploring strategies to monitor and analyze information on labor issue more effectively and take action to implement those strategies. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR is increasing the level and frequency of interagency monitoring through the Trade Policy Staff Committee, Subcommittee on Labor Monitor and Enforcement. Additionally, with DOL, USTR is exploring ways to improve engagement with U.S. Embassies in trade partner countries to monitor labor conditions. For example, DOL is funding the placement of labor officers in certain priority U.S. Embassies to collect and assess facts and to support the implementation of USTR and DOL's efforts. To date, according to USTR, DOL has placed labor officers in Colombia, Honduras, and Bangladesh. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR and DOL.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions. USTR stated that its annual report already provides country-specific information on labor issues and that USTR regularly engages with Congress to provide detailed information on labor issues via meetings and phone conferences. Nonetheless, USTR recognizes that meaningful engagement with Congress is an indispensable part of monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR agreed to continue to identify more effective ways of communicating with Congress, including USTR's committees of jurisdiction, with respect to the Administration's FTA monitoring and enforcement efforts. Furthermore, USTR stated that it will solicit congressional advice and input to inform its efforts. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR.
    Director: Brown Barnes, Cindy S
    Phone: (202) 512-9345

    4 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to take steps to identify high risk facilities working with ammonium nitrate and develop options to target them for inspection.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In 2016, OSHA officials reported that implementation of their planned local emphasis programs focused on safe use and storage of ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia at fertilizer facilities was delayed due to litigation regarding process safety management enforcement in the fertilizer industry. As of July 2017, OSHA officials stated that with the recent conclusion of that litigation, OSHA is considering initiation of local emphasis programs focused on the storage and handling of ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia at fertilizer facilities. Once initiated, a local emphasis program requires a focused inspection program with facilities chosen at random from the list of facilities in appropriate industry codes. OSHA previously (December 3, 2014) issued guidance to Regional Administrators to assist OSHA officials in enforcing the ammonium nitrate storage requirements in the Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard. We will close this recommendation when the local emphasis programs are initiated.
    Recommendation: To strengthen federal oversight of facilities with ammonium nitrate, the Secretary of Labor and the Administrator of EPA should direct OSHA and EPA, respectively, to consider revising their related regulations to cover ammonium nitrate and jointly develop a plan to require high risk facilities with ammonium nitrate to assess the risks and implement safeguards to prevent accidents involving this chemical.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: On December 9, 2013, OSHA issued a Request for Information seeking, among other things, comments on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management standard and its Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard. The Request for Information specifically invited comments on safe work practices for storing, handling, and managing ammonium nitrate and on regulatory requirements to improve its approach to preventing the hazards associated with ammonium nitrate. As of July 2017, OSHA reports it has completed a Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Review Act panel to gather feedback from small businesses on updating its Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation. During the panel, the agency discussed the option of adding ammonium nitrate to the list of chemicals covered by PSM and collected comments. Currently, the PSM rulemaking is on the regulatory agenda under Long Term Action. According to OSHA officials, the agency will continue to collect comments on the option of adding ammonium nitrate to the list of highly hazardous chemicals covered by the PSM regulations as dictated by the rulemaking process. We will close this recommendation when OSHA decides what action to take as a result of the requests for information.
    Recommendation: To strengthen federal oversight of facilities with ammonium nitrate, the Secretary of Labor and the Administrator of EPA should direct OSHA and EPA, respectively, to consider revising their related regulations to cover ammonium nitrate and jointly develop a plan to require high risk facilities with ammonium nitrate to assess the risks and implement safeguards to prevent accidents involving this chemical.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, EPA issued a final rule to modify its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. The agency decided not to propose any revisions to the list of regulated substances and therefore, did not address ammonium nitrate in the revised regulations. In a June 2016 update from EPA, EPA stated that OSHA is considering whether ammonium nitrate should be added to the list of chemicals subject to OSHA Process Safety Management regulations. According to the June 2016 update, EPA stated that while the agency is not presently proposing that ammonium nitrate be added to the list of substances subject to the RMP rule, the agency may elect to propose such a listing at a later date.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to consider updating regulations for the storage of ammonium nitrate taking into consideration, as appropriate, other related standards and current practices.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSHA previously (December 3, 2014) issued guidance to Regional Administrators to assist OSHA officials in enforcing the ammonium nitrate storage requirements in the Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard. In addition, on December 9, 2013, OSHA issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking, among other things, comments on potential revisions to the Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard, which includes ammonium nitrate storage requirements. The RFI specifically invited comments on safe work practices for storing, handling, and managing ammonium nitrate and on regulatory requirements to improve its approach to preventing the hazards associated with ammonium nitrate. As of July 2017, this rulemaking is on the regulatory agenda under Long Term Action. We will close this recommendation when the agency decides what action to take as a result of the request for information.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As DOL and Treasury continue their efforts to determine the actions needed to enhance the retirement security of 401(k) plan participants, DOL and Treasury should consider the approaches taken by other countries to formalize access to multiple spend-down options for U.S. plan participants that address varying retirement risks and needs. To the extent possible, lessons from other countries should be used to help DOL and Treasury ensure plan sponsors have information about their flexibilities and the ability to facilitate access to a mix of appropriate options for 401(k) plan participants.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury did not provide comments on this recommendation and has not provided any updates.
    Recommendation: As DOL considers changes to participant benefit statements and other disclosures, the Secretary of DOL should consider strategies other countries have employed to help participants make sound decisions, such as providing timely information at or before retirement about available spend-down options and projections of future retirement income.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed that participants should have timely information at or before retirement about available spend-down options and projections of future retirement income. DOL had previously published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking soliciting public input on ways to show an projections of lifetime income in retirement plan benefit statements. DOL also consulted with the ERISA Advisory Council on ways it could assist DOL in this area. The Council developed and submitted to DOL tips, principals, and samples for plan sponsors to consider when communicating with participants. However, DOL has not taken additional steps in this area and continues to cite its other regulatory and guidance priorities as taking precedence.
    Recommendation: As DOL continues to review regulatory barriers to lifetime income options for 401(k) plan participants it should consider other countries' approaches to plans offering annuities, such as their reliance on existing solvency requirements and insurance industry standards to provide assurances rather than place responsibility on plan sponsors to make an assessment of an annuity provider's financial stability. As DOL considers the approaches of other countries and continues to work with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which facilitates interactions between insurance companies and state insurance regulators, DOL may wish to consult with the Federal Insurance Office, which coordinates federal efforts on prudential aspects of international insurance matters.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL worked with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2013 and 2014 to consider possible options for easing plan sponsor concerns about the requirement to assess the financial solvency of annuity providers. DOL reported they will continue to work with NAIC, as well as the National Organization of Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Associations and Treasury's Federal Insurance Office as they consider potential regulatory approaches in this area. DOL also worked with the Federal Insurance Office in developing guidance on the selection and monitoring of annuity providers under the current annuity selection safe harbor regulation. However, DOL has not taken further actions and continues to cite its other regulatory and guidance priorities as taking precedence. We commend DOL's efforts on a more workable safe harbor, but continue to encourage DOL to review alternative approaches taken by other countries, such as their reliance on existing solvency requirements and insurance standards, which can ease the burden on plan sponsors.
    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: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance understanding and better inform debate on the possible effects of moving to a more risk-based premium structure, during consideration of various redesign options and after a redesign may be authorized, the Director of PBGC should continue to develop PBGC's hypothetical model, analyzing various premium redesign options and their impacts on sponsors, and report the results to Congress. As part of these analyses, PBGC should evaluate the potential effects on sponsors of incorporating additional risk factors, such as company financial health and plan investment mix, and include an assessment to identify any potentially disproportional hardships on smaller companies that may result from the redistribution of higher rates to riskier sponsors.

    Agency: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    Status: Open

    Comments: PBGC agreed with this recommendation. The agency is committed to continued development of the databases, models, and analyses of various premium redesign options and their impacts on sponsors, and to report the results of these analyses to Congress. In April 2014, PBGC noted that its efforts are still in process. As of August 2015, PBGC had provided no additional updates on actions taken on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help strengthen the PBGC insurance program, Congress should authorize redesign of PBGC's premium structure to more fully reflect the risk posed by plans and sponsors to the agency, such as by providing for the incorporation of additional risk factors.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2012 and December 2013, Congress passed premium increases (P.L. No. 112-141 and P.L. 113-67, respectively) to better reflect the risk posed to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation by certain defined benefit pension plans and plan sponsors. Nevertheless, As of September 2015, Congress had yet to authorize a redesign of PBGC's premium structure.
    Recommendation: In addition, to improve PBGC's ability to collect key information that may be necessary to help the agency estimate its risk exposure to future claims and strengthen implementation of any changes to the premium structure, Congress should provide PBGC with access to additional information needed to assess risk and assist in setting premiums, such as by expanding the criteria requiring plan sponsors to report under section 4010 of ERISA.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2015, Congress has taken no action related to this matter.
    Recommendation: Moreover, to better understand the mechanics of how best to incorporate additional risk factors, improve transparency, and help inform the evaluation of the various redesign options, Congress should establish an independent premiums advisory committee reflecting a range of perspectives--including, for example, representatives from federal agencies, sponsors, actuaries, private insurers, and labor groups--to assist with such activities as developing the mechanics for incorporating additional risk factors and implementing new rates, as well as delineating a variety of alternative methods to address PBGC's deficit.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2015, Congress has taken no action related to this matter.
    Director: Sherrill, Andrew
    Phone: (202)512-7252

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the number of new H-1B workers who are subject to the cap--both entering the United States and changing to H-1B status within the United States--does not exceed the cap each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should take steps to improve its tracking of the number of approved H-1B applications and the number of issued visas under the cap by fully leveraging the transformation effort currently under way, which involves the adoption of an electronic petition processing system that will be linked to the Department of State's tracking system. Such steps should ensure that linkages to the Department of State's tracking system will provide Homeland Security with timely access to data on visa issuances, and that mechanisms for tracking petitions and visas against the cap are incorporated into U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' business rules to be developed for the new electronic petition system.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, USCIS officials reported that, according to their current timeframes, the business rules associated with the nonimmigrant visa petition process (including Form I-129) in the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) were slated to be developed in late 2017, with implementation projected for the beginning of 2018. They stated that during the requirements-gathering phase, the Service Center Operations officials and the Office of Transformation Program officials planned to discuss potential options for improving the tracking of the number of approved H-1B applications and the number of issued visas under the cap, including assessing the feasibility of linking DHS and State Department data. GAO will follow-up with USCIS on the status of this recommendation when business rules for the nonimmigrant line of the ELIS are developed and released.
    Director: Mccool, Thomas J
    Phone: (202)512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In developing legislation for a national reporting system for the biological laboratory community, Congress may wish to consider provisions for the agency it designates as responsible for the system to take into account the following in design and implementation: (1) including stakeholders in setting system goals; (2) assessing labs' organizational culture to guide design and implementation decisions; (3) making reporting voluntary, with open-reporting formats that allow workers to report events in their own words and that can be submitted by all workers in a variety of modes (Web or postal), with the option to report to either an internal or external entity; (4) incorporating strong reporter protections, data deidentification measures, and other incentives for reporting; (5) developing feedback mechanisms and an industry-level entity for disseminating safety data and safety recommendations across the lab community; and (6) ensuring ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the safety reporting system and safety culture.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken action on this recommendation.
    Director:
    Phone:

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should match independent contractors' information returns with their tax returns to more systematically identify employers who are misclassifying employees as independent contractors and to better target audit resources for doing employment tax examinations.

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

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.
    Recommendation: Section 630 of the Revenue Act of 1978 restricts IRS' authority to ensure that current and future classifications will be correct. In view of the equity issues and tax revenues involved, Congress may wish to consider repealing this restriction against requiring employers to prospectively reclassify employees who have been misclassified as independent contractors.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.