March 03,2004

Grassley Praises President’s Signing of Social Security Anti-Fraud Bill

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, todaypraised President Bush’s signing of bipartisan legislation to rein in several sources of fraud, waste,and abuse of Social Security programs. On Tuesday, the President signed into law the SocialSecurity Protection Act of 2004, which Grassley shepherded through the Senate.

“Like any government program, Social Security attracts its share of con artists andscammers,” Grassley said. “Fugitive felons work the system so they get Social Security benefits onthe lam. Some financial guardians of the disabled make off with the payments of those in their care.We have to plug these spigots of waste, fraud and abuse. Every penny down the drain doesn’t helpa deserving person. I’m glad the President signed these common-sense reforms into law.”

Last September, Grassley received Finance Committee approval of the Social SecurityProtection Act of 2003, which he said gives the Social Security Administration important new toolsto fight waste, fraud and abuse. The bill ultimately approved reflected a bipartisan agreement reachedbetween the Senate and the House. Highlights include:

Greater protection of representative payees. Grassley said the Social Security Act authorizesthe appointment of representative payees to receive and manage the Social Security benefits ofindividuals who cannot manage their own finances because of mental or physical impairments. Arepresentative payee may be an individual or an organization, including non-profits and state or localgovernment agencies. Over the years, there have been numerous reports that representative payeeshave misused the benefits entrusted to their care. As chairman of the Senate Special Committee onAging, Grassley held hearings on this issue and developed legislation to address this seriousproblem. The bill signed into law includes the protections Grassley proposed in the last Congress.For example, the bill ensures that the government can replace the payments stolen from thebeneficiary.

Fugitive felons. Grassley said the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 included a provision making fugitive felons ineligible to receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program. Since then, the Social Security Office of Inspector General and the General Accounting Office have raised concerns that fugitive felons remain eligible to receive benefits under the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program. Grassley cosponsored legislation to address this disparity. However, some recently have raised concerns that a number of cases involve minor offenses that are decades-old and will never be prosecuted.“I don’t believe the fugitive felon program should be blindly implemented,” Grassley said.“So the provision in this bill gives the Social Security Administration the authority to continue paying benefits under extenuating circumstances.”