Proactive, transparent, and responsive.
They might be government catchwords, but we take pride in having exactly those qualities—and more—when we interact with the United States Congress.
The Congressional hearing on the direct deposit of Social Security benefits serves as a prime example of the OIG’s working relationship with Capitol Hill.
As our office tracked allegations that individuals—other than Social Security beneficiaries or their representatives—had made unauthorized changes to direct deposit information and stolen Social Security benefits, we alerted Congress and briefed Members and their staffs on this critical issue.
The dialogue continued with additional briefings, as we worked to spread awareness of how to combat and prevent this identity theft scheme connected to direct deposit Federal benefit payments. We even started receiving and responding to public citizens’ and media outlets’ questions related to the issue.
The Subcommittee on Social Security then organized the September hearing and invited the Inspector General to testify, along with representatives from SSA, the Treasury, and a consumer advocate group.
In a public forum, in front of several U.S. Representatives from both sides of the aisle, the Inspector General presented our office’s investigative and audit work in response to the identity theft scheme. He offered recommended actions that SSA could implement to reduce fraudulent direct deposit changes.
He closed his statement saying, as he often does, “We will continue to provide information to your Subcommittee and Agency decision-makers to address this issue.”
Since this office’s inception in 1995, we have maintained frank and productive working relationships with members of Congress and their staffs. We work to keep Congress fully informed of our activities and important issues related to SSA’s programs and operations.
We do this a number of ways:
- The Inspector General Act calls for us to keep Congress informed of all relevant SSA issues and OIG accomplishments, by submission of Semiannual Report to Congress.
- As we did with the direct deposit issue, we regularly brief staff from relevant Committees of both Houses on a wide range of Audit and/or investigative issues. Our congressional liaison personally meets and corresponds with staff members to discuss any Social Security-related issues of waste, fraud, and abuse that are of emerging or continuing concern.
- In addition to testifying on issues such as SSN misuse, improper payments, and disability fraud, the Inspector General meets frequently with Members in one-on-one settings.
- We also proactively interact with congressional offices in a less formal manner. Our congressional liaison ensures that staff members have a point of contact from whom they can request and receive timely information.
We value our working relationship with Congress and look forward to continuing our productive relationship on behalf of the American public.