December 09,2003

Grassley Wins Approval of Social Security Anti-fraud Bill

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today wonSenate approval of bipartisan legislation to rein in several sources of fraud, waste, and abuse of SocialSecurity programs. The bill now goes back to the House for final congressional approval.

"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."

In 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 approved by the Senate today incorporates a manager'samendment that reflects a bipartisan agreement reached with the House Committee on Ways andMeans. 

Highlights include:

Greater protection of representative payees. Grassley said the Social Security Act authorizes the appointment of representative payees to receive and manage the Social Security benefits of individuals who cannot manage their own finances because of mental or physical impairments. A representative payee may be an individual or an organization, including non-profits and state or local government 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 serious problem.The bill approved today includes the protections Grassley proposed in the last Congress. For example,the bill ensures that the government can replace the payments stolen from the beneficiary.

Fugitive felons. Grassley said the Personal Responsibility and Work OpportunityReconciliation Act of 1996 included a provision making fugitive felons ineligible to receive benefitsunder 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 anumber 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. "Sothe provision in this bill gives the Social Security Administration the authority to continue paying benefits under extenuating circumstances."