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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO estimated the number of incarcerated felons receiving social security and other cash benefits from various federal programs. Initial GAO estimates on the number of prisoner beneficiaries receiving benefits from Social Security Administration (SSA) and Veterans Administration (VA) programs resulted in Congress enacting legislation in 1980 to exclude certain benefits to prisoners.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to: (1) encourage state prison systems to give SSA periodic lists of prisoners, incarceration dates, and accurate SSN; (2) validate all prisoner SSN and share the names, validated SSN's, and incarceration dates with VA so that VA can better identify prisoner beneficiaries of its programs; and (3) share the corrected SSN with the prison systems to enhance the accuracy of their prisoner files.
Closed - Implemented
An undetermined amount of money will be saved when prisoners collecting benefits have their benefits terminated while in prison.
Veterans Administration 2. The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should use the prisoner identification information supplied by SSA to better identify prisoner beneficiaries of VA programs.
Closed - Implemented
SSA has not released computer tapes to VA because of a new law, the Primary Protestation Act, and the issue has been with SSA and VA General Counsels. VA drew up an agreement and, in February 1990, sent it to SSA for concurrence. As of June 1990, SSA was still reviewing it. Given the 8 years that have elapsed so far, GAO sees no outcome in the forseeable future.
Department of Education 3. The Secretary of Education should amend the Pell Grant Program regulations so that schools are required to calculate the students' cost of attendance, upon which Pell Grants are based, after any tuition waivers have been granted.
Closed - Not Implemented
Education found that legislation enacted in 1982, and extended thereafter, prevents it from modifying the rules.

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