October 08,2002

Grassley Works to Stop Government Payments to Fugitives


To: Reporters and Editors
Fr: Jill Gerber, 202/224-6522
Re: Fugitive Felon Report
Da: Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, last year asked the
General Accounting Office (GAO) to review a program to prevent fugitive felons from improperly
receiving federal dollars. The program is administered by the Social Security Administration. As
Finance Committee chairman in April 2001, Grassley held a hearing to expose improper Medicare
and Social Security payments to fugitives, prisoners, the deceased, and other ineligible people.
Grassley made the following comment in response to the GAO report released today.

“I agree with GAO’s conclusion that ‘the fugitive felon program has provided a valuable
service by helping the Social Security Administration to identify and prevent payments to ineligible
SSI recipients and helping law enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend fugitive felons.’

“Since the program’s enactment, SSA has worked with federal, state, and local authorities to
develop systems and procedures to implement this program. The latest statistics indicate the program
has made substantial progress in recent years. Since the program began in August 1996 through
September 2001, this program has helped to identify 45,071 felons who were paid $81.6 million in
SSI benefits. Of these fugitives, 5,019 were subsequently apprehended. The projected savings to
the government is $132.9 million. Soon after I chaired the Finance hearing on this issue in April
2001, the program had an uptick in the number of felons identified and arrested and the projected
savings achieved. From April 1, 2001, through Sept. 30, 2001, 15,306 felons were identified and
1,479 fugitives were arrested, for a projected savings to the government of $41.5 million.

“Unfortunately, the GAO also found that SSA has experienced significant technological and
other barriers to achieving and sustaining efficient and effective program operations, and ultimately,
helping SSA overcome GAO’s designation of SSI as a high-risk program. The GAO made this
designation because of SSA’s insufficient oversight that makes the program susceptible to waste,
fraud and abuse.

“On the technical side, SSA has had considerable difficulty obtaining comprehensive felony
warrant information from all 50 states. Without complete access to this vital information, the program
can never be fully successful.

“On the oversight side, SSA lacks clear and unified management accountability to direct the
fugitive felon program. GAO noted the program would benefit from the appointment of an agencywide
program administrator, and that additional steps could be taken to automate the program. I’m
hopeful SSA will give these recommendations every consideration.

“Finally, I believe SSA should conduct a complete and thorough cost-benefit analysis of this
program. Such information would be invaluable as Congress continues to consider legislation to
expand the program to include OASDI beneficiaries. The bottom line is, this program has to work
to protect taxpayers. The taxpayers are ripped off when fugitives collect payments they don’t deserve.
Fugitives from justice don’t need a government subsidy to enjoy life on the lam.”