Archive for the ‘government and politics’ Category

Employment Services and Supports Available to Veterans with Disabilities Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Other Federal Agencies

April 19, 2014 Comments off

Employment Services and Supports Available to Veterans with Disabilities Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Other Federal Agencies (PDF)
Source: Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy

The number of military personnel incurring disability in current military conflicts is the highest in over three decades. Since 2001, over 1.6 million service members, Reservists, and National Guard have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern nations. As noted by Lew et al. (2007), advances in medical innovations and body armor have enabled 90 percent of soldiers to survive injuries that would have likely been fatal in previous wars, but many service personnel survive with serious physical and psychological injuries.

The Federal government has recently responded to the growing number of service members with disabilities in several ways. President Obama has signed executive orders to improve federal government hiring of veterans and to require federal agencies to contract with veteran owned agencies. The 2011 American Jobs Act added tax credits to employers hiring veterans with service co nnected disabilities. That same year, the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act was passed and signed into law . The VOW Act provides additional tax credit and training funds for unemployed veterans to prepare them for employment.

Many federal agencies will be involved in the implementation of these initiatives. Employment services and supports for veterans with disabilities is primarily provided by the VA, but the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Labor (DoL) also operate program s specifically targeting veterans with disabilities. Veterans also access other employment service programs that target all individuals with disabilities or persons in need specialized support to obtain employment.

T his report provides an overview of Federally – funded employment services and supports that can be accessed by veterans with disabilities, including those designed to meet the needs of the disabled veteran population specifically, the veteran population in general, and the disability population in general. The purpose is to present a comprehensive cataloging and review of all employment resources of which veterans with disabilities could access in pursuit of wage and self – employment.

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Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

As hardworking Americans file their taxes today, it’s a good time to be reminded that ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab for special interest loopholes in our tax laws. A new U.S. PIRG report released today revealed that the average American taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,259 in state and federal taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals avoid paying an estimated $184 billion in state and federal income taxes by using complicated accounting tricks to shift their profits to offshore tax havens. Of that $184 billion, $110 billion is avoided specifically by corporations.

The Future of U.S. Health Care Spending

April 18, 2014 Comments off

The Future of U.S. Health Care Spending
Source: Brookings Institution

For several decades health spending in the United States rose much faster than other spending. Forecasters predicted the health sector, already 17% of GDP, would soon exceed 20 to 25% of GDP, driving out other necessary public and private spending. However, in recent years health spending growth dropped dramatically and surprisingly, to a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012. It is not clear why this turn around occurred or how long it will last.

On Friday, April 11th the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings brought together several experts to discuss three questions that will also be addressed in a forthcoming series of Brookings papers. The discussion and papers address the causes of the slowdown and the likelihood it will continue; its impact on federal and state budgets, and private spending; and identify reforms that will ensure slow cost growth while improving health.

Papers presented:

Offshore Outsourcing of Administrative Functions by State Medicaid Agencies

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Outsourcing of Administrative Functions by State Medicaid Agencies
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

Outsourcing occurs when State Medicaid agencies enter into agreements with contractors to perform administrative functions. Outsourcing can occur inside the United States (domestic outsourcing) or outside (offshore outsourcing) and can be direct (when a Medicaid agency contracts with an offshore contractor) or indirect (when a Medicaid agency’s contractor subcontracts to an offshore contractor). There are no Federal regulations that prohibit the offshore outsourcing of Medicaid administrative functions. However, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities to have business associate agreements (BAAs) to protect personal health information (PHI).

We conducted a survey of 56 Medicaid agencies, including those of the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. We asked Medicaid agencies (1) whether they had any policies, Executive Orders, State laws, or contract requirements (collectively, “requirements”) addressing the outsourcing of administrative functions offshore and (2) whether they directly or indirectly outsourced administrative functions offshore. For Medicaid agencies with outsourcing requirements, we asked whether these requirements address PHI and whether the Medicaid agencies monitor contractors’ compliance with the requirements. We reviewed the Medicaid agencies’ requirements and BAAs. For the Medicaid agencies that outsource offshore, we asked what types of administrative functions are outsourced offshore.

Only 15 of 56 Medicaid agencies have some form of State-specific requirement that addresses the outsourcing of administrative functions offshore. The remaining 41 Medicaid agencies reported no offshore outsourcing requirements and do not outsource administrative functions offshore. Among the 15 Medicaid agencies with requirements, 4 Medicaid agencies prohibit the outsourcing of administrative functions offshore and 11 Medicaid agencies allow it. The 11 Medicaid agencies that allow offshore outsourcing of administrative functions each maintain BAAs with contractors, which is a requirement under HIPAA. Among other things, BAAs are intended to safeguard PHI. These 11 Medicaid agencies do not have additional State requirements that specifically address safeguarding PHI. Seven of the eleven Medicaid agencies reported outsourcing offshore through subcontractors, but none reported sending PHI offshore. If Medicaid agencies engage in offshore outsourcing of administrative functions that involve PHI, it could present potential vulnerabilities. For example, Medicaid agencies or domestic contractors that send PHI offshore may have limited means of enforcing provisions of BAAs that are intended to safeguard PHI. Although some countries may have privacy protections greater than those in the United States, other countries may have limited or no privacy protections.

New From the GAO

April 18, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Nuclear Weapons: Technology Development Efforts for the Uranium Processing Facility. GAO-14-295, April 18.
Highlights –

2. Maritime Infrastructure: Key Issues Related to Commercial Activity in the U.S. Arctic over the Next Decade. GAO-14-299, March 19.
Highlights –

3. Medicare Imaging Accreditation: Effect on Access to Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Is Unclear amid Other Policy Changes. GAO-14-378, April 18.
Highlights –

4. Large Partnerships: Characteristics of Population and IRS Audits. GAO-14-379R, March 19.

Managing Retirement Risks

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Managing Retirement Risks (PDF)
Source: American College of Financial Services

This table was built for the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation program for financial advisors. Building a retirement income plan starts by making sure that the client’s income needs and other financial objectives are met. But after that is the tough task of evaluating all the risks that retirees face, and developing a plan to address each one. This table identifies 18 risks in six different categories. With each risk, we define the risk, provide an example, identify facts that describe the magnitude and scope of the risk, and offer a wide range of possible solutions.

The solutions offered here are intended to provide ideas. Building a retirement income plan is a complex process and building solutions to retirement risks is much more than just checking the box. For example, solving longevity risk may include deferring Social Security, purchasing annuities with lifetime payouts, buying life insurance to provide an income stream to a surviving spouse, and carefully choosing a withdrawal strategy from a retirement portfolio. In other words, almost every risk described here requires a carefully crafted, balanced set of solutions that requires thought, knowledge, and experience.

The Business of Government — Spring 2014 Edition

April 18, 2014 Comments off

The Business of Government — Spring 2014 Edition
Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government

We highlight the latest trends for improving government effectiveness by introducing you to key government executives, detailing the work of public management practitioners, and offering insights from leading academics.

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment
Source: International Journal of Advances in Psychology

This paper addresses the importance of understanding veterans’ individual beliefs and the effects of stigma on pharmacological and psychological treatment among active military personnel and veterans. The discussion can assist treating clinicians in reducing barriers to treatment and increasing compliance with effective psychological and pharmacological interventions for this population. The author has conducted more than 3000 interviews with veterans from World War II (WWII), the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who applied for service connected Veterans Administration compensation due to mental health conditions. A summary of the responses from veterans regarding their reaction to psychiatric treatment is given and compared to the findings of other provided preliminary studies regarding the effect of individual beliefs and stigma on treatment compliance.

Standard Deductions: U.S. Corporate Tax Policy

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Standard Deductions: U.S. Corporate Tax Policy
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. system for taxing corporate profits is outdated, ineffective at raising revenue, and creates perverse incentives for companies to shelter profits overseas. It is also, for most U.S. companies most of the time, a pretty good deal, which is one of the big reasons why any serious overhaul will be so difficult to achieve.

This is the fourth progress report and scorecard from CFR’s Renewing America initiative. Previous progress reports and scorecards have evaluated transportation infrastructure, federal education policy, and trade.

Federal Agency Charges for Reports Available Free Online

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Federal Agency Charges for Reports Available Free Online

The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is something of a federal dinosaur, charging money for government reports that can be obtained elsewhere for free on the Internet.

Around since 1950, NTIS was set up as a clearinghouse for technical papers produced by the government. It has continued to sell these reports to the public even though many of them can be had for free through other agencies.

For instance, anyone interested in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s handy report on chemical hazards can order a free copy here. Or they can pay the NTIS $30.

Another example is Terrorism and Other Public Health Emergencies: A Reference Guide for Media, available for free from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The NTIS charges $16 for the report.

The agency has agreed to stop charging for reports produced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), one of Congress’ most vocal critics of government waste, after his office complained. But it will continue to require payment for reports produced by other lawmakers (presumably unless they, too, tell it to stop).

USDoJ Executive Office for Immigration Review: FY 2013 Statistics

April 17, 2014 Comments off

USDoJ Executive Office for Immigration Review: FY 2013 Statistics (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review
From press release (PDF):

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced that it has released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Statistics Yearbook. As announced on its website on October 1, 2013, EOIR has been working to enhance its external data reporting by changing the way it analyzes and reports its data. The new statistical methodology is featured in the FY 2013 Statistics Yearbook, an annual compilation of data that examines respondents’ cases by nationality, language, and disposition, and provides detailed information surrounding asylum cases.

DoD OIG — Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Our objectives were to (1) address the central database and DoD IG oversight provisions of Public Law 110-181, “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” Section 847, “Requirements for Senior Department of Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors,” January 28, 2008; (hereinafter referred to as “section 847”) (2) address subsequent direction from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC); and (3) accordingly determine:

  • Whether written legal opinions required by section 847 were “being provided and retained in accordance with the requirements of this section.” (Public Law 110-181, section 847 [b][2]).
  • “The Department of Defense’s record of compliance with section 847 of Public Law 110-181.” (HASC Report on the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2013).
  • Quantitative data specified by the HASC, as follows:
    • “the total number of opinions issued,
    • the total number of opinions retained in accordance with section 847,
    • any instances in which a request for a written opinion pursuant to section 847 lacked a corresponding written opinion, or
    • in which the written opinion was not provided to the requesting official or former official of the Department of Defense by the appropriate ethics counselor within 30 days after the request for a written opinion.”

DoD did not retain all required section 847 records in its designated central repository, the After Government Employment Advice Repository (AGEAR).

This occurred because the Department did not:

  • implement the 2010 DoD Inspector General (IG) report recommendation to transfer historical records into AGEAR when the database became operational,
  • centrally supervise section 847 activities by its decentralized Components, and
  • comply with Deputy Secretary guidance making AGEAR use mandatory as of January 1, 2012.

As a result:

  • The AGEAR database was incomplete with limited or no use by specific DoD organizations with significant contracting activity.
  • Individual section 847 records were located in multiple or decentralized locations, and in a number of cases were inaccurate, incomplete, and not readily accessible for examination.

New From the GAO

April 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Information Security: SEC Needs to Improve Controls over Financial Systems and Data. GAO-14-419, April 17.
Highlights -

Foreign Agriculture Service — Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (PDF)
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

The United States Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is one of the U.S. Government’s four Foreign Affairs Agencies under the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Chartered in 1953, FAS is a small agency with a global mission and presence. FAS is responsible for a broad range of programs, activities and tasks designed to carry out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statutory responsibility to promote U.S. agricultural interests overseas. The core mission of FAS is to facilitate trade and international cooperation, which are critical to the vitality of the U.S. agricultural sector. Staff includes about 850 people stationed in Washington, about 160 Foreign Agricultural Affairs Officers, and 350 locally employed staff overseas. Foreign Service officers represent the interests and needs of American agriculture at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.

If you are interested in a Foreign Service career at FAS, there is plenty of opportunity, but entry is a competitive process that takes place only once every 12-24 months depending on the needs of the service.

CRS — The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class

April 17, 2014 Comments off

The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Although not itself a subject of legislation, the shape of the income distribution enters Congress’s decision-making process concerning such policy issues as taxes, means-tested benefits, and social insurance programs. Congress also considers legislation specifically in the name of those in the middle class, which is variously defined as some income level or income range within the distribution of U.S. households with income. After briefly analyzing the distribution of household money income in 2012, the report attempts to put the term “middle class” into greater perspective.

CRS — Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

As communities face a variety of economic challenges, some are looking to local banks and financial institutions for solutions that address the specific development needs of low-income and distressed communities. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide financial products and services, such as mortgage financing for homebuyers and not-for-profit developers, underwriting and risk capital for community facilities; technical assistance; and commercial loans and investments to small, start-up, or expanding businesses. CDFIs include regulated institutions, such as community development banks and credit unions, and nonregulated institutions, such as loan and venture capital funds.

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (the Fund), an agency within the Department of the Treasury, administers several programs that encourage the role of CDFIs, and similar organizations, in community development. Nearly 1,000 financial institutions located throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia are eligible for the Fund’s programs to provide financial and technical assistance to meet the needs of businesses, homebuyers, community developers, and investors in distressed communities. In addition, the Fund allocates the New Markets Tax Credit to more than 5,000 eligible investment vehicles in low-income communities (LICs).

This report begins by describing the Fund’s history, current appropriations, and each of its programs. A description of the Fund’s process of certifying certain financial institutions to be eligible for the Fund’s program awards follows. The next section provides an overview of each program’s purpose, use of award proceeds, eligibility criteria, and relevant issues for Congress.

The final section analyzes four policy considerations of congressional interest, regarding the Fund and the effective use of federal resources to promote economic development.

See also: Community Development Block Grants: Funding Issues in the 113th Congress (PDF)

CRS — Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.

The fire grant program is now in its 14th year. The Fire Act statute was reauthorized in 2012 (Title XVIII of P.L. 112-239) and provides new guidelines on how fire grant money should be distributed. There is no set geographical formula for the distribution of fire grants—fire departments throughout the nation apply, and award decisions are made by a peer panel based on the merits of the application and the needs of the community. However, the law does require that fire grants be distributed to a diverse mix of fire departments, with respect to type of department (paid, volunteer, or combination), geographic location, and type of community served (e.g., urban, suburban, or rural).

CBO — Report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program—April 2014

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program—April 2014
Source: Congressional Budget Office

In October 2008, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Division A of Public Law 110-343) established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to enable the Department of the Treasury to promote stability in financial markets through the purchase and guarantee of “troubled assets.” Section 202 of that legislation, as amended, requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit annual reports on the costs of the Treasury’s purchases and guarantees of troubled assets. The law also requires CBO to prepare its own assessment of the TARP’s costs within 45 days of OMB’s report. That assessment must discuss three elements:

  • The costs of purchases and guarantees of troubled assets,
  • The information and valuation methods used to calculate those costs, and
  • The impact on the federal budget deficit and debt.

To fulfill its statutory requirement, CBO has prepared this report on the TARP’s transactions that were completed, outstanding, or anticipated as of March 12, 2014. By CBO’s estimate, $438 billion of the initially authorized $700 billion will be disbursed through the TARP, including $423 billion that has already been disbursed and $15 billion in additional projected disbursements. CBO’s current estimate of the cost to the federal government of the TARP’s transactions (also referred to as the subsidy cost), which accounts for the realized costs of completed transactions and the estimated costs of outstanding and anticipated transactions, amounts to $27 billion (see the table below).

CRS — Brazil: Political and Economic Situation and U.S. Relations

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Brazil: Political and Economic Situation and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United States has traditionally enjoyed cooperative relations with Brazil, which is the seventh-largest economy in the world and is recognized by the Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy as an emerging center of influence. Administration officials have often highlighted Brazil’s status as a multicultural democracy, referring to the country as a natural partner that shares values and goals with the United States. Bilateral ties have been strained from time to time, however, as the countries’ occasionally divergent national interests and independent foreign policies have led to disagreements. U.S.-Brazilian relations have been particularly strained over the past year as a result of alleged National Security Agency (NSA) activities inside Brazil. Nevertheless, the countries continue to engage on issues such as trade, energy, security, racial equality, and the environment.

CRS — Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are the laws, rules, standards, and procedures that governments employ to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, toxins, and other contaminants. Examples include meat and poultry processing standards to reduce pathogens, residue limits for pesticides in foods, and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) cover technical regulations, product standards, environmental regulations, and voluntary procedures relating to human health and animal welfare. Examples include trademarks and patents, labeling and packaging requirements, certification and inspection procedures, product specifications, and marketing of biotechnology. SPS and TBT measures both comprise a group of widely divergent standards and standards-based measures that countries use to regulate markets, protect their consumers, and preserve natural resources.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), SPS and TBT measures have become more prominent concerns for agricultural exporters and policy makers, as tariff-related barriers to trade have been reduced by various multilateral, regional, and bilateral negotiations and trade agreements. The concerns include whether SPS and TBT measures might be used to unfairly discriminate against imported products or create unnecessary obstacles to trade in agricultural, food, and other traded goods. Notable U.S. trade disputes involving SPS and TBT measures have included a European Union (EU) ban on U.S. meats treated with growth-promoting hormones and also certain pathogen reduction treatments, and an EU moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products, among other types of trade concerns with other countries. Foreign countries have also objected to various U.S. trade measures.


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