Our employees take tremendous pride in the work they do, and it’s always nice to see those efforts recognized.
It’s especially rewarding when accolades come from our peers—in this case, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). The CIGIE’s role is to increase the level of professionalism and effectiveness, as well as to assist in the development of personnel, within the offices of inspectors general.
This year marked the 15th annual CIGIE Awards Ceremony, which recognized more than 85 individuals and groups for their outstanding accomplishments in the inspector general community.
We are proud to share that our employees received three CIGIE Awards for Excellence—two team awards and one individual award. These awards were given for identifying and achieving savings for Social Security programs—and ultimately, for taxpayers. These days, savings—on every level—are critical. In fiscal year 2011, the IG community identified potential savings of over $93 billion—nearly $85 billion from audit recommendations and over $9 billion from investigative recoveries.
Our first Award for Excellence recognized the audit work, Using Third Party Data to Identify Unreported Resources. This audit team estimated how much money SSA could save by using a software program to verify the assets and resources of people who apply for SSI. People are supposed to tell SSA about their assets and resources when they apply, but if they don’t, SSA may pay them more than they are supposed to receive.
Using this software can help SSA staff make sure they are paying people the right amount. For example, in one report that looked at vehicle ownership, one out of four SSI recipients did not report that they or their spouses owned vehicles that might have reduced their SSI payment. We estimated that as a result, SSA made $551 million in improper payments to 75,000 recipients.
Our second Award for Excellence went to Special Agent Lance Kidwell, for his outstanding work on three investigations in which people defrauded Social Security and taxpayers of over $1 million, by claiming to be disabled while still working:
- A Las Vegas man worked as a bookkeeper and concealed his earnings under his spouse’s name. He now has to repay $525,000 to SSA and spend 2 years in prison.
- Another man collected benefits for 13 years while operating a chiropractic business and judging professional boxing matches. He received an 18-month prison sentence and has to repay over $435,000.
- An internet entrepreneur reported to SSA that she had sold her art business, but she actually hadn’t. She was sentenced to 3 years of probation and community service, and has to repay over $100,000.
Our final Award for Excellence was given to a team that issued a report titled Supplemental Security Income Windfall Offset Provision. The windfall offset is a technical term that means when SSA makes a large retroactive retirement or disability benefit payment to someone who has also been receiving SSI, the agency has to subtract all those SSI payments from the large backpayment first. Sometimes SSA neglects to do this, which means people are accidentally paid too much money.
Our team not only identified these overpayments using data matching and analysis, but it also identified significant underpayments—monies that the Agency should have paid to some beneficiaries. In our sample, SSA hadn’t processed almost 25 percent of the payments, so the team estimated that SSA improperly withheld $232 million from beneficiaries. This team’s work demonstrated that not only is the OIG concerned with saving taxpayer money, but also with protecting the most vulnerable citizens who depend on Social Security to pay for basic needs like housing and food.
We are very proud of our awardees and their accomplishments, which provide a glimpse of the value we provide through our work. We invite you to learn more about our work by visiting our audit report and investigations archives. You can also view the CIGIE Award Ceremony booklet online for more details about the ceremony and awardees.