HEARING BEFORE THE
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES,
AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MARCH 4, 2003
STATEMENT BY JO ANNE B. BARNHART
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
DALE W. SOPPER
FOR FINANCE, ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Statement by the Commissioner of Social Security
Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriation Requests
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am pleased to be here today to present the fiscal year (FY) 2004 appropriation requests of the Social Security Administration (SSA). I appreciate the Committee's interest and support of the Social Security Administration in the past, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.
Overview of SSA's Programs and Overall Budget
I will begin by providing you with a brief overview of the programs that SSA administers and the Agency's overall budget. SSA touches the lives of virtually every American because Social Security's programs provide protection against loss of earnings due to retirement, disability, and death. While it is often thought of as a retirement program, Social Security also provides benefits to disabled workers and their families, as well as to surviving family members of deceased workers.
Social Security benefits have significantly improved the economic well being of the nation. Poverty among the elderly has been reduced by 54 percent over the past 30 years. In 2002, 91 percent of people 65 or over were receiving benefits. In addition, Social Security disability and survivors benefits are a critical source of income for workers and families during a vulnerable time in their lives. About 9 out of 10 Americans age 21 through 64 who work in covered employment can count on receiving benefits if they become disabled. Approximately 98 percent of children under 18 and spouses with children in their care under 16 can also count on benefits if a working parent dies.
SSA also administers the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which is funded from general revenues, not through Social Security taxes, and provides payments to needy individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled.
For FY 2004, about 98 percent of the $535 billion that SSA will outlay will be paid in the form of monthly benefits to more than 50 million beneficiaries. SSA's administrative expenses are less than 2 percent of total outlays.
SSA has four appropriation requests before this Committee: Limitation on Administrative Expenses, Office of the Inspector General, Supplemental Security Income, and Payments to Social Security Trust Funds. Social Security trust fund benefit payments are permanently appropriated, and therefore are not part of the budget requests before this Committee. But, it is important to note that the administrative resources that SSA needs in order to pay benefits and to manage the Social Security programs are part of the appropriation requests that we are asking you to support.
Consistent with Public Law 107-275, the Black Lung Consolidation of Administrative Responsibility Act, which transferred responsibility for the Part B Black Lung program to the Department of Labor, the SSA budget no longer includes resources for Special Benefits for Disabled Coal Miners.
Beginning with FY 2004, consistent with the Administration's plan to transfer the Medicare hearings function to the Department of Health and Human Services, SSA's annual budget request does not include the resources that would be needed to process Medicare hearings. The President's budget now includes the Medicare hearings function under the Department of Health and Human Services, which is accountable by law for management and administration of the Medicare program.
The President's commitment to current and future beneficiaries is clear. This request includes $8.53 billion for our Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) account, $90 million for the Office of the Inspector General, and $30 million for research. SSA's administrative budget is driven by the size of the programs we administer - both in terms of the work we do and the number of people we need to do it - and by our continuing efforts to improve service, efficiency and program integrity. This budget is an increase of 7.5 percent over the FY 2003 President's budget request, and effectively an 8.5 percent increase after adjusting for Medicare hearings costs in FY 2003 that are not in SSA's budget for FY 2004.
We are extremely pleased with the President's request, which we believe reflects a tremendous vote of confidence for SSA employees given their performance results last year. Our disability components completed a 7-year plan to become current with continuing disability reviews and exceeded FY 2002 goals in processing initial claims, despite an unexpected surge in disability claims filed. Our hearings offices cleared more than 530,000 hearings, almost 10 percent above their goal. Overall, SSA achieved a 5.1 percent productivity increase in FY 2002.
SSA's Service Delivery Assessment
SSA began a Service Delivery Assessment last year with a focus on the processing of claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and SSI disability benefits because, from both a cost and service perspective, these programs present the greatest challenges. While costs associated with administering these two programs represent approximately two-thirds of SSA's administrative expenses, backlogs in disability-related workloads have been growing each year and disability processing times are too long. Ongoing workload receipts are rising as the baby boom generation enters the disability-prone and retirement years. An unexpected near-term surge in disability claims is exacerbating the problem.
Although approximately 40 percent of disability claims are approved within three and a half months of initial application, for applicants who exercise all administrative appeal rights provided under current law and current processes, an average of 1,153 days is required for a final Agency decision. Based on our analysis, almost 50 percent of this time in the process is caused by the backlog of cases.
The lengthy delay in service caused by backlogs is not unique to disability claims. SSA is facing enormous difficulties in keeping up with all of its work and in providing timely, responsive service to the public. Backlogs also exist in postentitlement workloads.
In addition, other large special workloads, including 467,000 special disability cases and 240,000 workers' compensation cases, will require a substantial dedication of the Agency's resources to ensure that affected beneficiaries receive benefits to which they are entitled.
Although we have not yet completed the detailed Service Delivery Assessment for all service areas, it is clear that eliminating backlogs and processing special workloads are prerequisites for providing good service to the public.
We recognize that constraints in resources and the projected growth in workloads require that we do business differently. Evidenced by our performance last year, as we complete the Service Delivery Assessment for each service area, we are committed to identifying systems and process improvements, implementing needed changes, and increasing Agency efficiency.
President's Request for SSA's Limitation on Administrative Expenses
Approval of the President's budget request will help SSA move toward meeting long-term goals by funding 2,275 additional workyears. SSA will be able to process over a hundred thousand additional initial disability claims compared to actual FY 2002 levels, which will enable the Agency to keep up with this important workload and to lower processing times for the American public. The President's budget also will enable SSA to begin to work down special disability and workers' compensation-related workloads to ensure beneficiaries are paid the right amount. The special disability cases involve SSI recipients who may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits because they have earned sufficient work credits to qualify for the Social Security program. The workers' compensation cases involve cases where disability beneficiaries' workers' compensation payments changed, but SSA was not made aware of the change.
Recognizing that SSA must improve its business practices, the President's budget provides the resources we will need to transform our paper-driven disability claims process to an electronic process in order to improve service and efficiency. The budget also supports initiatives that will continue to make it easier for the public to conduct business with SSA over the Internet or through automated telephone service as well as initiatives that will increase productivity in service delivery.
Additionally, the budget includes dedicated funding of $1.4 billion to ensure adequate resources for important and cost-effective workloads that reduce erroneous payments - continuing disability reviews, SSI non-disability redeterminations, and overpayment actions. This dedicated funding can help SSA effectively balance providing good service for millions of citizens and good stewardship for the American taxpayer.
It is important to note that the President's FY 2004 request assumes enactment of his FY 2003 request. We are currently assessing the impact of the across-the-board reduction and the higher pay raise in the FY 2003 omnibus appropriations bill on our performance goals in both FYs 2003 and 2004.
Keeping Up With Core Workloads
One of SSA's highest priorities is to improve service in the disability programs from initial claim through final review. The disability benefits provided through the Social Security and SSI programs assist our nation's most vulnerable populations - children and adults who are disabled. The length of time the disability determination process currently takes is unacceptable.
Initial disability claims are processed by State employees at State Disability Determination Service agencies which are fully funded by SSA. In FY 2002, the average time to reach a decision on a new claim was 104 days, or about three and a half months. Individuals whose initial claims are denied can pursue their claims through three levels of administrative appeal. Although most claims are resolved at the initial step or at the first level of appeal, individuals who exhaust all levels of administrative appeal can expect the process from initial contact with SSA to final decision to take about three years. Worse yet, the time spent actually working on the claim by Federal and State workers, while spread over the three years, only totals up to seven days. The rest of the time, cases either sit waiting to be processed, or are delayed for various reasons such as the collection of medical evidence or giving claimants time to request the next step in the administrative appeal process.
It is clear from our Service Delivery Assessment that we must reduce backlogs to significantly decrease processing times. In recent years, substantial backlogs of claims have accumulated because SSA has been unable to process all the claims received. In FYs 2003 and 2004, we plan to keep up with receipts of initial disability claims despite growing workloads -- the first time since 1997 that backlogs in initial disability claims will not grow. In FY 2004, we expect a small improvement in average initial disability claims processing time from 104 days to 103 days.
We also plan to process a significantly greater number of SSA hearings in FY 2004 compared to FY 2003. However, our ability to reduce hearings backlogs is affected by the number of initial disability claims and reconsiderations processed. As we process more cases in these initial steps, we expect that hearings backlogs will initially increase due to the substantial growth in hearings receipts. In addition, our current inability to replace Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who retire or leave - due to the hiring prohibition as a result of the Azdell decision1 - has the potential to seriously affect our ability to reduce hearings backlogs. We will be examining temporary means for supplementing our ALJ corps in adjudicating hearings in the event that the ALJ hiring prohibition continues indefinitely.
Processing Special Workloads
We have three special workloads that we urgently need to process as expeditiously as possible due to the amount of time affected individuals may have been paid incorrectly and/or to prevent future erroneous payments. Due to the size and complexity of the workloads, we have developed a realistic, multi-year plan to work the cases. Without adequate funding, we are unable to process these workloads without adversely affecting ongoing service delivery and stewardship activities.
Special Disability Workload
One of the conditions for eligibility to SSI is that individuals file for any other benefits they may be eligible to receive. A large number of SSI recipients have been identified who may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments because they have earned sufficient work credits to qualify for the Disability Insurance program. To keep this from happening in the future, we have rewritten computer programs and retrained technical employees to identify eligibility as it occurs.
Although our corrective actions will prevent a recurrence of this backlog, we still must review nearly a half-million special disability workload cases. We have trained employees and established cadres who began processing these cases in FY 2002. Due to the complexity of this workload, our hands-on experience has demonstrated that these cases require significantly more time to review than originally expected. We expect to complete processing the entire workload over several years. In FY 2004, the President's budget allocates $142 million to process these cases.
Workers' Compensation Workload
A number of Disability Insurance beneficiaries have been identified whose workers' compensation payments changed, but SSA was not made aware of the change. Since the amount of workers' compensation can affect the amount of disability benefits a person is eligible to receive, some of these individuals have been paid incorrect amounts of Social Security disability benefits. SSA is reviewing the cases and verifying the amount of workers' compensation payments to ensure that correct Social Security benefits are being paid. In FY 2004, we expect to process 40,000 cases.
SSI Pre-effectuation Reviews
In addition to the special workloads, we expect to process a new workload based on the President's proposal to require SSA to review at least 50 percent of the favorable decisions for SSI disability and blindness cases involving adults by FY 2005. This supports the President's management reform to reduce erroneous payments and will improve the accuracy and integrity of the SSI and Medicaid programs. Since the Social Security Disability Insurance program already requires pre-effectuation reviews, this will apply consistency across both disability programs. We expect that this workload will result in SSI program savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Congress has indicated support for this proposal. The House of Representatives recently passed the Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act of 2003, which includes a provision requiring SSA to review at least 20 percent of favorable SSI disability determinations in FY 2004; at least 40 percent in FY 2005; and at least 50 percent in FY 2006. In addition, in the previous Congress, the Senate Finance Committee reported legislation with a similar provision for pre-effectuation reviews of SSI allowances. The phase-in period for these proposals is different from the President's budget proposal. The Administration is committed to working with both the House and Senate to ensure that the legislation is consistent with the President's budget.
Implementing Service and Stewardship Improvements
We are currently engaged in the second phase of our Service Delivery Assessment to identify mid- and long-term strategies to reduce remaining delay time in the disability decision process that is within our control. Our initial analysis shows us that there is no one way to make the disability decision process faster and better. More efficient processing will require many improvements - some large, some small, both near- and long-term - to achieve our service goal. It is important to recognize that even with infinite resources and the best laid plans, the workload challenges SSA faces cannot be fully addressed in one year. They are the result of a multi-year build up of backlogs and service delivery issues that began in the 1990s, and a multi-year strategy is required to address them.
As we develop proposals for mid- and long-term changes to our disability processes and policies, we also are making several nearer-term improvements, which I will discuss briefly. Together, these actions should begin reducing processing times, improve the process for both claimants and employees, and increase efficiency.
Accelerating the Electronic Disability Initiative (AeDib)
To reduce delays as a result of mailing, locating and organizing paper folders, SSA is accelerating its transition to an electronic disability process. AeDib is a major Agency initiative that will move all components (i.e., the field office, the State Disability Determination Service, the hearings office, the quality assurance office) involved in disability claims adjudication and review to an electronic business process through the use of an electronic disability folder.
When the process is fully implemented, components will be able to work claims by electronically accessing information that is collected, produced and stored as part of the electronic disability folder. AeDib will significantly change the business process and the ways components interact with disability claims. It will contribute to SSA performance objectives of more timely and efficient adjudication at all levels, and will increase Agency efficiency. This budget supports substantial progress towards national implementation of AeDib by the end of FY 2004.
Improving the Initial Disability Determination Process
SSA has engaged in a number of efforts to redesign and improve the disability determination process by testing several initiatives over the past several years. We carefully reviewed the results of these initiatives to identify the elements that show the most promise. Based on this review, we have decided to:
- Encourage early and frequent contacts with claimants during the development process;
- Eliminate the claimant conference at the end of the process; and
- Temporarily extend the "elimination of reconsideration step" feature in the Prototype States that are currently doing this, while SSA develops an alternative approach.
Improving the Appeals Process
The amount of time the SSA appeals process takes has been a major concern. The Hearings Process Improvements (HPI) initiative, which was implemented in 2000, has not worked. Based on analysis of HPI, SSA has made the following near-term changes to the hearings process:
- Include ALJs in early case screening to more quickly identify cases for dismissal and possible on-the-record decisions;
- End the requirement that cases be certified as "ready to hear", removing a step in the process;
- Develop and implement a short form for fully favorable decisions that will take less employee time to complete;
- Allow ALJs to issue fully favorable decisions from the bench immediately after a hearing; and
- Expand the use of technology in the Office of Hearings and Appeals, including video teleconferencing, speech recognition and digital recording of hearings.
These are just the first steps that SSA has taken and will continue to implement to meet the challenge of providing a timely, efficient and quality hearing process. As part of the Service Delivery Assessment, SSA has compiled a range of ideas and recommendations on potential improvements to the disability process from a variety of sources. These are being evaluated for possible implementation.
Expanding Electronic Service Delivery
During FY 2002, the number of visits to SSA's website rose to about 40 million, an increase of 40 percent over the prior year. SSA is in the final stages of redesigning our website to make it easier for the public to find the information and services they need, and to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. With major forms online, we are moving to a strategy more focused on increased use by the public, which will allow greater access for citizens to our services and allow us to reach them more efficiently. The Internet Social Security Benefit Application is the flagship service that SSA offers and one that has potential for higher usage and greater return for the Agency. We plan enhancements for better understanding and ease of use, and are developing a promotion plan that will include working with third parties to assist in the claims process.
Increasing usage will be a challenge as a recent Department of Commerce study substantiates that a "Digital Divide" exists in this country, and that the elderly are significantly less likely to use the Internet than their children. To increase use of electronic services, SSA's overall communications program includes a comprehensive plan to promote current online services and services that will come online in the near future. The plan includes direct marketing to those nearing retirement age and cooperative marketing and ventures with interest groups, advocacy organizations, employers and educational institutions. The plan also includes exploring a public education advertising campaign to inform the public of services available online.
In addition to increasing usage of our current electronic services, we will continue to expand the number of services available online. We will also continue to address authentication (privacy and security) issues. We at SSA have a long tradition of protecting the public's privacy, and we have built on the experience that we gained from our current electronic services. We are constantly evaluating existing and new technologies that will help us to provide electronic services conveniently and securely. We are striving to achieve the right balance between personal privacy and system integrity by adopting procedures that protect information from unauthorized disclosure while ensuring the accuracy of the data through authentication of its source.
Improving Telephone Service
This budget assumes the number of calls to SSA's 800-number will basically remain level because of increased use of SSA's website and implementation of a new system that has improved our call handling efficiency. As a result, we believe that we have reduced the need for beneficiaries to make multiple attempts to get through to the 800-number. Through technological enhancements, we are continuing to improve call delivery management. For example, we are currently giving beneficiaries automated access to basic information concerning their benefits, and we plan to increase the amount of information available that can be accessed.
SSA has set a goal of achieving an average of at least 2 percent per year improvement in productivity. In FY 2002, SSA achieved a 5.1 percent productivity increase over FY 2001. However, it is unrealistic to expect productivity improvements to continue at the FY 2002 rate -- it is more reasonable that, over time, we will achieve a modest annual increase in productivity with some increases and decreases depending on specific workloads processed and initiatives implemented.
Advances in automation will be key to SSA's productivity improvement. Projects are underway that utilize technology to improve SSA's wage reporting system, the claims process, and the postentitlement reporting process. SSA continues to expand the electronic government initiative that began several years ago. This Internet initiative increases opportunities for the public to conduct business with SSA electronically and provides access to several claims and postentitlement options. As discussed earlier, a major initiative in the FY 2004 budget is the Accelerated Electronic Disability Initiative (AeDib), which is projected to have a significant impact on disability processing time in the long-term as we transform the paper-driven disability claims process to an electronic process.
Improving Program Integrity
SSA's mission demands that we balance our commitment to service with our obligation to be good stewards of the programs we administer. We must protect the integrity of the trust funds and our general fund programs by seeking efficiencies, avoiding erroneous payments and combating fraud. To accomplish this, we must have adequate resources to process our program integrity workloads. The people of America, who fund the Social Security and SSI programs through their payroll tax contributions and income tax payments, expect and deserve well-managed programs providing accurate payments that safeguard their trust.
The complexity of SSA's programs sometimes results in paying beneficiaries incorrect amounts. SSA's efforts to improve payment accuracy encompass a broad range of activities designed to prevent and identify erroneous payments. The President's request includes dedicated funding of $1.4 billion to ensure adequate resources for important and cost-effective workloads that reduce erroneous payments - continuing disability reviews, SSI non-disability redeterminations, and overpayment actions. This dedicated funding can help SSA effectively balance providing good service for millions of citizens and good stewardship for the American taxpayer.
This budget also reflects the plans and activities in the Agency's SSI Corrective Action Plan. Issued in June 2002, the plan outlined a multi-pronged approach to improve stewardship through increased detection and prevention, new measurement strategies, potential changes in SSI policies and Agency accountability. We are extremely pleased that the General Accounting Office (GAO) has removed the SSI program from its high-risk list of government programs considered especially vulnerable to waste, fraud or abuse. In doing so, GAO recognized SSA's progress to improve the management of the program. We are continuing our efforts to improve our management of the SSI program across three fronts - improved prevention of overpayments, increased overpayment detection, and increased collection of debt.
Described below are important activities we are working on to improve the integrity of both our Social Security and SSI programs, including major efforts discussed in the SSI Corrective Action Plan.
Processing Significant Numbers of Continuing Disability Reviews
SSA conducts periodic reviews to ensure that only those beneficiaries who are truly disabled continue to receive benefits. Cap adjustment funding for SSA's CDR program from FY 1996 through FY 2002 ensured that the Agency was fully funded to carry out its 7-year plan to become current in processing CDRs. We estimate that in FY 2002 alone savings from these CDRs will have reduced the Federal deficit by about $3 billion, and that significant additional savings will continue to accrue from them for many years into the future. SSA's experience shows approximately $9 in program savings for each $1 invested in CDRs. In FY 2004, we expect to process over 1.6 million periodic CDRs.
Conducting Significant Numbers of SSI Non-Disability Redeterminations
The most powerful tool available for eliminating erroneous SSI payments is the redetermination process, which focuses on the income and resource factors affecting eligibility and payment amounts. Periodic redeterminations are required by law and result in hundreds of millions of dollars in payment changes. Because redeterminations are so effective in reducing erroneous payments and in ensuring program integrity, SSA continues to conduct them in substantial numbers. In FY 2004, we expect to process nearly 2.5 million periodic redeterminations, the same number as in our FY 2003 budget plan. SSA's experience shows approximately $7 in program savings from overpayments collected and prevented for each $1 invested in redeterminations.
Expanding Computer Matches
SSA will test a process using authority granted by the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 to access the records of financial institutions, which will provide access to information on unreported income and assets of SSI recipients. SSA also is conducting a test using credit bureaus and other public databases to detect unreported income and assets.
Strengthening Debt Collection
We strive to achieve high levels of payment accuracy in order to minimize the amount of program dollars paid incorrectly. However, due to the complexities of our programs, it is inevitable that some debt will be created. For example, the Goldberg/Kelly decision is a legal requirement that precludes SSA from reducing a recipient's SSI payment without due process, resulting in
overpayments continuing while the recipient exercises appeal rights. In addition, we send payments on the first of the month for the month that is about to occur, but changes in circumstances later in that same month can make the check already sent incorrect. These "unavoidable errors" amount to between one-half of one percent and one percent of all SSI payments every year.
Our debt management program currently makes use of many of the debt collection tools available under existing law, and we are in the process of implementing the remainder. In FY 2002, SSA collected almost $2 billion in debt.
Improving the Representative Payee Program
SSA appoints representative payees for individuals who are incapable of managing or directing the management of their benefits. Each representative payee, whether an individual who represents only one beneficiary or an organization that represents hundreds, is required to account for the benefits received for each beneficiary and how they were spent. During FYs 2003-2004, we will use several initiatives to strengthen the representative payee selection and review process, including expanding organizational payee credit checks and corporate officers/fiduciaries background checks to include large volume payees. In light of intense congressional, media, OIG and advocate scrutiny, and based on an in-depth Agency analysis, SSA has examined the operation of the representative payee program.
Combating Social Security Number Misuse
The terrorist attacks of September 11th reinforced the need for a concerted long-term effort in the area of Social Security number misuse and identity theft that could potentially identify future terrorist threats and reduce other potential problems resulting from SSN misuse. SSA formed a high-level response team which meets regularly to develop recommendations to strengthen enumeration policy and procedure. Implementation of these initiatives will ensure that SSA is strengthening its capability to prevent those with criminal intent from obtaining and using Social Security numbers and cards.
This budget incorporates recommendations of the team. Some examples include:
- Elimination of driver's licenses as a reason for issuance of a non-work SSN for non-citizens;
- Verification of any birth records submitted by U.S. born citizens age one or older applying for an original SSN as of June 1, 2002;
- Verification of all alien documentation submitted by non-citizens in support of applications for an original or replacement Social Security card, effective September 1, 2002; and
- Mandatory interviews of all first-time SSN card applicants aged 12 and over.
SSA is working on new regulations for these items as needed. Also, we are working on new regulations to clarify the evidentiary requirements for certain international students applying for an SSN. In addition, we have instituted a range of new data sharing initiatives with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Department of State (DoS) that will improve integrity with respect to non-citizens. In October 2002, we began the first phase of "Enumeration at Entry", an initiative that makes use of information in INS' and DoS' automated systems to enumerate select classes of non-citizens as part of the process of being admitted to the U.S.
On November 13, 2002, SSA opened a pilot Social Security Card Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Center processes requests for original and duplicate Social Security cards for residents of the borough of Brooklyn. Centralizing this workload has improved service to the public and has expedited the review of documents that must be verified under the new requirements we have established (listed above). In addition, it helps ensure that only qualified individuals with valid documents receive new Social Security numbers or replacement cards.
The Agency also implemented changes to make Death Master File updates available on a weekly basis to speed up distribution of the data to users. Timely issuance is critical to prevent identity theft of deceased SSN-holders.
Other FY 2004 Appropriations Requests
I would like to turn now to a brief summary of the other appropriation requests for FY 2004.
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
$90 million for OIG - Since becoming an independent agency in March 1995, we have had our own Inspector General whose mission is to protect the integrity of SSA's programs. A strong OIG, working together with SSA employees in local offices, is the most effective means we have to detect and prevent fraud and abuse in the programs we administer. A strong OIG also is essential given the need to continue working with law enforcement in conjunction with homeland security efforts.
The request for FY 2004 is $90 million, representing a $7 million increase in resources from the FY 2003 President's budget. This increase of 8.4 percent will cover mandatory increases in OIG's operating expenses, including salaries for its staff and other costs such as rent and supplies, and will help OIG to begin staffing a Social Security Number Misuse Response Team. This team's primary focus will be to protect the integrity of the SSN by providing assistance to SSA, Congress, the public, and other law enforcement officials on SSN misuse issues. OIG also will continue to pursue anti-fraud activities on a variety of fronts. The Cooperative Disability Investigations Team will continue disability program fraud investigations while other personnel will continue pursuing SSI fraud through the Fugitive Felon Project.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
$37 billion for the SSI Program - The SSI program ensures a minimum monthly level of income to eligible aged, blind, and disabled individuals. An individual's income, resources, and living arrangements are evaluated to determine the monthly SSI payment. This request includes $34 billion for Federal benefit payments to about 6.7 million aged, blind, and disabled beneficiaries and $3 billion to reimburse the Social Security trust funds for SSI administrative expenses, to provide for vocational rehabilitation services, and to fund extramural research and demonstration projects.
Payments to Social Security Trust Funds
$21.7 million for Payments to Social Security Trust Funds - This request will serve to reimburse the Social Security trust funds for the costs of certain benefits and administrative expenses properly charged to Federal funds.
The President's FY 2004 administrative budget for SSA - including $8.53 billion for LAE and $90 million for the Inspector General - will provide the resources to help us:
- Meet the challenges of growing workloads by keeping up with retirement, survivors, and disability claims;
- Process special workloads to ensure affected beneficiaries are paid the right amount;
- Prepare for the future through service and stewardship investments;
- Reduce erroneous payments through dedicated funding for major cost-effective program integrity efforts; and
- Combat Social Security number misuse to protect the American public.
Given the President's many competing priorities, I believe that the increase in SSA's budget request reflects the President's strong support and confidence in our ability to continue to improve service for the public and to accomplish results. Your approval of the President's budget request is vitally important to improving service for the American people.
I thank you for the opportunity to present SSA's budget request to this Subcommittee and look forward to working with you and other members of the Congress as we work toward meeting our goals to improve service and stewardship for the American public.