From the Inspector General's Desk: 2012 In Review

Beyond the Numbers

Friday, January 4, 2013
Posted by: 
Inspector General Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr.

As you know if you have browsed through our website, our 580 employees produce a staggering amount of work in one year—over 100 audits, about 7,000 investigations, and hundreds of millions of dollars saved and recovered for you, the taxpayer. 

Every year, you can rest assured that we have analyzed SSA’s systems, benefit programs, Social Security number assignment procedures, customer service; and we have also investigated thousands of people who have lied to Social Security employees, abused the public trust as representative payees, sold Social Security cards or numbers, or stolen Social Security benefits that someone else deserved.

As in previous years, employee safety continued to be of paramount concern to SSA and the OIG in 2012. Social Security employees must always be aware of their surroundings and customer behavior. In Fiscal Year 2012, our office received more than 1,500 allegations nationwide related to SSA employee safety issues. Our Office of Investigations opened 79 employee safety cases and closed 77 nationwide.

For example, in November, a Maine man—who spent 27 years in prison for a 1982 murder—was sentenced to two years and three months in jail for threatening to kill an SSA official. The 55-year-old man pleaded guilty in August to making the threats, reportedly writing a rambling letter to the SSA official, threatening to kill the employee if he stopped receiving Social Security payments.

And the Cooperative Disability Investigations program continued to be one of our most successful initiatives in 2012, contributing to the integrity of SSA’s disability programs. The program currently consists of 25 Units covering 21 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, with the most recent Unit opening in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2012.

In Fiscal Year 2012, the CDI program reported $339.6 million in projected savings to SSA’s disability programs—the program’s greatest single-year savings total—for a return on investment of $17 to $1. Since the program was established, through September 2012, the CDI efforts have resulted in $2.2 billion in projected savings to SSA’s disability programs and $1.4 billion in projected savings to non-SSA programs.

This important—and never-ending—work goes on every day of every year, year in and year out.  But that’s not the sum total of our accomplishments in 2012. Once again, our employees have also proved that they can rise up and successfully meet unforeseen challenges that occur in the course of that work. 

On September 11, 2001, for example, our special agents assisted in search, rescue, and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Later, we assisted the FBI in investigating the terrorists who committed the attacks; and we participated in homeland security activities like Operation Tarmac, in which we targeted individuals who misused Social Security numbers to gain employment at airports and other sensitive facilities. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, our special agents again went beyond the call of duty, protecting SSA employees and offices and helping make sure beneficiaries were paid; and transporting Federal officials to inspect damaged Social Security office, like the one in the photo below. 

And just a few weeks ago, we blogged about our employees who were victims of Hurricane Sandy and also those who responded within their communities to help recover from the devastating storm. A couple of weeks later, I was able to visit with our employees and personally witness the destruction that had been wrought. 

As we mentioned in our first blog entry about Sandy, our agents assisted the American Red Cross on Staten Island—in fact, they were the first Federal agents to offer help, working through the first weekend after the storm and beyond.  They gave law enforcement escorts to Red Cross vehicles driven by volunteers delivering food to stranded and flooded-out citizens; and when needed, they escorted those same vehicles to New Jersey and made sure they got their gas tanks refilled so they could keep delivering food. The photo above shows Red Cross workers with agents from our New York City office. 

All of our everyday efforts, and the responses to unforeseen events, illustrate the extraordinary work of OIG employees, and it is an honor to work with them, year in and year out.   

Happy New Year, and on behalf of the entire OIG, we look forward to serving you in 2013 and beyond.