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Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quality in the Disability Determination Process

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Misplaced Priorities: How the Social Security Administration Sacrificed Quality for Quality in the Disability Determination Process
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Key Findings:

  • All of the 48 ALJ focused reviews conducted by SSA and reviewed by Committee staff showed numerous deficiencies in ALJ decision-making and several disturbing patterns. ALJs conducted few or inadequate hearings, misused vocational experts, failed to properly assess work ability and relied too heavily on medical briefs prepared by claimants’ paid representatives. (p. 13)
  • SSA continues to allow ALJs to decide cases even when they demonstrate gross incompetence or negligence in handling their responsibilities. In several cases, SSA did not inform the ALJ about the negative focused review for over eight months after the review was completed. (p. 28)
  • SSA was singularly focused on churning out a large volume of dispositions, which led to inappropriate benefit awards. In 2007, the agency directed ALJs to decide 500 to 700 decisions each year, without conducting any study to determine how long it takes ALJs to evaluate cases and issue informed decisions.
  • SSA encouraged ALJs to take shortcuts in deciding cases to increase the amount of decisions issued each year. The agency promoted on-the-record decisions, which do not require a hearing, and bench decisions, which do not require a written opinion, to increase the number of decisions issued.

Report: FDIC Senior Officials Acted on Personal Animus against Legal Businesses (Payday Lenders)

December 12, 2014 Comments off

Report: FDIC Senior Officials Acted on Personal Animus against Legal Businesses
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today released a new report, “Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Involvement in ‘Operation Choke Point’,” detailing the agency’s close relationship with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to effectively target legal businesses the administration deemed morally objectionable. Documents produced to the Committee reveal that the DOJ actively partnered with the FDIC in the prosecution of Operation Choke Point. FDIC’s participation in Operation Choke Point included requests for information about the investigation, discussions of legal theories and the application of banking laws, and the review of documents involving FDIC-supervised institutions obtained by DOJ in the course of its investigation. FDIC also originated the list of “high risk” industries included in the DOJ subpoenas. Documents provided to the Committee also show that senior leadership at the FDIC opposed certain industries on purely moral grounds.

Documents produced to the Committee reveal that senior FDIC policymakers oppose payday lending on personal grounds, and attempted to use FDIC’s supervisory authority to prohibit the practice. Personal animus towards payday lending is apparent throughout the documents produced to the Committee. Emails reveal that FDIC’s senior-most bank examiners “literally cannot stand payday,” and effectively ordered banks to terminate all relationships with the industry.

Gym Memberships, Gift Cards, and Hair Salons: Examining the Misuse of Government-Supplied Credit Cards (Hearing)

October 15, 2014 Comments off

Gym Memberships, Gift Cards, and Hair Salons: Examining the Misuse of Government-Supplied Credit Cards
Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Witness and Testimony Documents
Ms. Anne Richards
Assistant Inspector General for Audits
Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Ms. Janet Kasper
Director, Contracts and Assistance Agreement Audits,
Office of Inspector General, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Elliot Lewis
Assistant Inspector General for Audits
Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor

Mr. John Lyle
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Contracting)
U.S. Air Force

Mr. H.L. Larry
Deputy Director of Air Force Services
U.S. Air Force

Full Committee Hearing: White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service

October 1, 2014 Comments off

Full Committee Hearing: White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 – 10:00am
Location: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
(PDFs)

The Honorable Julia Pierson
Director
United States Secret Service

The Honorable W. Ralph Basham
Former Director
United States Secret Service

The Honorable Todd M. Keil
Senior Advisor
TorchStone Page, Inc
Former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection
Department of Homeland Security

Ranking Member Cummings’s Opening Statement

See also: Archived webcast

U.S. Census Bureau: Addressing Data Collection Vulnerabilities

September 30, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Census Bureau: Addressing Data Collection Vulnerabilities
Source: U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Among the report’s findings:

  • The Census Bureau’s lack of recordkeeping and deficient data collection system fostered an environment in which data falsification could occur.
  • The suspected falsification procedures are inconsistent from region to region and from case to case. The system relies on paper-based forms, making it vulnerable to error and deliberate circumvention.
  • Data quality assurance efforts are fundamentally flawed. Regional offices are responsible for both data collection and quality control, which often have conflicting objectives.
  • Philadelphia Regional Office supervisors regularly emphasized the importance of obtaining survey response rates, with little to no mention of data integrity. Employees experienced significant pressure to achieve and improve their response rates by any means possible. Pressure to meet these requirements stemmed from both the Regional Office and Census National Headquarters.
  • The current mechanisms for data quality control are insufficient and could serve to discourage individuals from identifying and reporting suspected falsification.
  • The primary data quality assurance check—reinterview—remains in the original interviewer’s chain of command, effectively diminishing the objectivity of the process.
  • There are no clear guidelines available to all Census employees for straightforward reporting of suspected falsification.
  • There is no single master record of a case. The case-tracking systems make it difficult—sometimes impossible—to determine the full history and corresponding chain of custody of a particular case.

Corporate Inversions

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Corporate Inversions
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Ways and Means Committee (Democrats)

Congress enacted Section 7874 of the Internal Revenue Code in 2004 as a way to discourage U.S. companies from acquiring smaller foreign companies and moving their tax home to a foreign jurisdiction as part of the overall transaction.

Under current law, a corporate inversion will not be respected for U.S. tax purposes if 80% or more of the new combined corporation (incorporated offshore) is owned by historic shareholders of the U.S. corporation (or, in the case of a partnership, interest owners of the partnership). Alternatively, if at least 60% (but less than 80%) of the combined foreign corporation is owned by historic shareholders of the U.S. corporation, the inversion itself will be respected but the expatriated entity will be subject to an “inversion gain,” including restrictions on the use of certain corporate attributes such as net operating losses. However, these unfavorable rules do not apply if the expanded affiliated group (“affiliated group”) that includes the combined corporation has “substantial business activities” (25% of employees by number, employees by compensation, assets, and income) in the foreign country where it is incorporated.

Since the provision was enacted in 2004, there have been almost 50 corporate inversions.

Hearing: The State of Religious Liberty in the United States

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Hearing: The State of Religious Liberty in the United States
Source: U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee
Archived webcast and PDFs of witness statements:

  • Mr. Mathew D. Staver

Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel
Dean of Liberty University School of Law

  • Ms. Kim Colby

Senior Counsel
Christian Legal Society

  • The Rev. Barry Lynn

Executive Director
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

  • Mr. Gregory S. Baylor

Senior Counsel
Alliance Defending Freedom

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