We do realize that it’s been almost two months since we blogged in this space, and we must offer our apologies. We thank you for your patience and wanted to give you a glimpse of what we’ve been doing all this time instead of thinking up and writing blog entries: namely, preparing the Inspector General for three congressional hearings and responding to an emerging fraud scheme that has occupied us with media and congressional interest.
On April 25, the Inspector General testified before the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, about our procurement of ammunition for our special agents. Remember that issue from last summer? The Subcommittee took note of our blog posts, and asked us to provide more information about our ammunition policy and procurement, and to testify at a hearing along with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security. We were grateful for the opportunity to clarify our position and explain the context surrounding our need to procure ammunition and how much we procure, based on our law enforcement requirements.
On April 26—yes, the very next day—the Inspector General testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Social Security Subcommittee, about the challenges facing the next Commissioner of Social Security. We are working closely with Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and her administration to tackle some of these challenges now—such as addressing system vulnerabilities identified in SSA’s Financial Statement Audit for 2012.
But we also appreciate the Subcommittee’s recognition of the long-term nature of many of the Agency’s current challenges, which will require a consistent and persistent approach months and years into the future. Some of the challenges the Inspector General mentioned include:
- the need for a comprehensive customer service delivery plan, that addresses the Agency’s staffing, space, and IT needs for a business model where most Social Security business is conducted online; and
- the need to streamline and simplify the disability claim process, so that the Agency can better serve the public while also improving program and payment integrity.
And just last week, the Inspector General visited the Senate side to testify at a hearing not only in his Social Security capacity, but also on behalf of the larger Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on May 8 about reducing improper payments, which is the goal of a large share of our audit and investigative work.
Finally, over the last two weeks, we have been responding to a new fraud scheme affecting some Social Security beneficiaries. Identity thieves have obtained sensitive personal information, and used it to create fraudulent my Social Security accounts through www.socialsecurity.gov.
We have issued a fraud advisory about this new scheme, and have provided information to Members of Congress as well as media outlets who have heard from public citizens affected by the scheme. Our special agents are investigating, and we are working closely with SSA to address the new scheme but also educate senior citizens—and all Americans—about how to:
- protect their personal information;
- monitor all financial and personal accounts to quickly identify any irregular activity; and
- report suspected fraud to the appropriate authorities.
Unfortunately, identity thieves will always be looking for new ways to make money using your personal information, so you should take critical steps to prevent them from getting that information in the first place.