Date: April 24, 2018
President Signs H.R. 4547, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security
Beneficiaries Act of 2018
On April 13, 2018, the President signed H.R. 4547, “The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018” into law. This bill, introduced on December 5, 2017 by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), became Public Law 115-165. The Senate passed the bill on March 23, 2018 without amendment by unanimous consent. The bill previously passed the House under suspension of the rules, as amended, and agreed by a vote of 396-0, on February 05, 2018. The law amends Titles II, VIII, and XVI of the Social Security Act to improve and strengthen the representative payment program.
H.R. 4547, as enacted, includes the following provisions of interest to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Strengthening Payee Monitoring
- Requires the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) to make annual grants, in an amount no less than $25,000,000, directly to State Protection and Advocacy groups (P&As) by August 1, 2018, plus an additional 4 percent of that amount to a national organization to provide support to P&As beginning May 1, 2018.
- Provides no additional appropriation for these grants.
- Allows State P&As to:
- conduct all periodic onsite reviews and additional discretionary reviews;
- develop corrective action plans;
- submit review reports to SSA; and,
- conduct initial onsite assessments of fee-for-service organizations.
- Expands the required periodic onsite reviews to include individual (including family members) and organizational payees based on risk of potential misuse or unsuitability.
Reducing Family Burden
- Allows the Commissioner to exempt custodial parents of minor children and disabled individuals, as well as spouses, from annual payee accountings. Would be effective upon enactment.1
Protecting Beneficiaries through Information Sharing
- Requires SSA to:
- Within one year of enactment, establish a monthly data exchange between SSA and State foster care agencies to identify beneficiaries with payees whose foster care arrangements have changed so SSA can redetermine the payee.
- Conduct a study on improving data sharing with State adult protective services to determine the need for, and provide oversight of, payees. SSA is required to conclude the study and submit a report on the results to Congress no later than June 30, 2022.
- Enter into an agreement with the Administrative Conference of the United States to conduct a study on opportunities for and barriers to information sharing with State courts. SSA is required to provide the results of the study to Congress by June 30, 2022.
Clarifying State Overpayment Liability
- Clarifies that State payees for minors in foster care are responsible for repaying overpayments incurred while the State acted as payee. Effective for determinations made on or after enactment, and amounts unrecovered as of enactment.
Reports to Congress
- Requires the Commissioner to report annually on January 31st beginning the first January after enactment:
- on the number of beneficiaries with payees;
- on the results of payee reviews, including a summary of problems identified and corrective actions taken; and,
- on information pertaining to the number of, and dollar amounts related to, misuse cases.
- Requires the Commissioner to conduct a study on the elimination of annual payee accountings, and report on the results by January 1, 2021.
- Allows beneficiaries to designate an individual(s) to serve as payee in advance of the Commissioner determining that a representative payee is necessary, and requires SSA to select the designated individual with certain exceptions.
- Requires SSA to, within 18 months of enactment, publish regulations specifying the information beneficiaries must provide about the designated individual(s).
- Requires SSA to notify beneficiaries with advance designations, annually with the name(s) of their advance designees.
- Requires the Commissioner to study the effects of Advance Designation, and provide a report by January 1, 2025.
- Allows SSA to disqualify current or prospective payees who do not consent to background checks, effective January 1, 2019.
- Codifies current criminal bar policies and exemptions for certain payees, such as custodial parents and spouses, effective for new payees beginning January 1, 2019, and for existing payees by January 1, 2024.
- Requires SSA to issue, no later than 1 year after the date of enactment, regulations to establish a process for reviewing all non-exempt payees at least once every 5 years, to determine if the payee has been convicted of a felony.
Prohibition on Individuals with Payees Serving as Payees
- Codifies current policies that prohibit beneficiaries and recipients who have payees from serving as payees, effective January 1, 2019 for new payees, and January 1, 2024 for all current payees.
Reassessment of Order of Preference
- Requires the Commissioner to study, and provide opportunity for public comment on:
- the appropriateness of the order of preference for selecting payees;
- the effectiveness of policy and operations for changing payees; and, report to Congress within 18 months of enactment.
1 In order to effectuate this exemption, SSA is also required to seek relief from the 1984 Jordan court decision that required nearly all representative payees to provide an annual accounting.