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HR Bill 4053-- A Bill to Minimize Improper Payments

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Fraud against United States government agencies is rampant. It is impossible to obtain an exact figure, because not all agencies are measuring the extent to which they are losing money, but estimates of over $100 billion/year in improper payments are common. 

We are all aware of and horrified by this. It's unfair, unscrupulous, and worsening our already faltering economy. And we agree that IT MUST STOP. Yet all too often these days it seems that efforts to stop this trend are led by individual legislators who propose bills of only small scope. When we see a congressman propose a bill, it seems to be either because he knows of the problem and wants to fix it, or has a constituent who was the indirect victim of such a fraud. It seems easy enough to propose, is a hot-button issue and seems like a great way to attract votes. But most of those who propose bills have not done their homework.

As genealogists, we are most familiar with attempts to close access to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File (DMF), sold commercially as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). We see it over and over again: a legislator proposes a bill recommending closure of the Social Security Death Index in order to halt tax fraud. This is completely misdirected, however, because in fact, the SSDI is a tool created by the Social Security Administration to assist in detection of tax fraud. If government agencies use it, they will detect fraud. If they do not use it, the bad guys get our money. Until recently, they have not been using it, hence the hemorrhaging of our hard-earned money.

On January 10th, President Obama signed into law the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, HR 4053. Nicknamed "The Do Not Pay Initiative," this bill is one that actually addresses the absolutely astounding amount of fraud perpertrated upon the government agencies. According to "Do Not Pay," a US government website established to help explain the reasoning behind the bill, HR 4053 will help programs and agencies funded by the US government prevent, reduce and stop improper payments from being made, and identify and mitigate fraud, waste and abuse. Quite ambitious. But this is one bill that will work, because it is well thought out and recognizes where the problems actually are.

A brief history, as outlined on the Do Not Pay website:

2002--The Improper Payments Information Act was passed. It encouraged CFOs to look carefully into waste and fraud.

2009--An Executive Order was issued whose purpose was to reduce improper payments by intensifying efforts to eliminate payment error, waste, fraud, and abuse in Federal programs.

2010--A Presidential Memorandum advised agencies to verify eligibility before making payments by checking the Death Master File, the Credit Alert System, and a List of Excluded Entities, among others. Note that Death Master File is first on the list. This is the purpose of the DMF! WE ALREADY HAVE LEGISLATION IN PLACE.

2011--The US Treasury Bureau developed the Do Not Pay Business Center to consolidate efforts

2012--A memorandum directed heads of Federal agencies and departments to take immediate steps to use the centralized solutions in place.

2013--On Jan 10th President Obama signed the HR 4053, a bill aimed at minimizing improper payments made by Federal agencies. You can read a short article about the bill in FCW, a magazine covering issues in technology and government.

You can read the bills and memoranda on the website of the White House's Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Financial Management Improper Payments page.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper issued a press release on 21 December 2012 which has a well-written summary of the battle to shut down this fraud.

Carper includes a quote from Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts on the issue:

“I’m pleased that this much needed bill is on its way to becoming law. During my time in the Senate it has become apparent just how much waste still exists in our federal spending,” said Sen. Brown, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management. “It’s only right that the American people know the government is a good steward of taxpayer money and this law will give us the tools we need to ensure that promise is being kept.”

As much as we need people to oppose frilly legislation aimed at closing the DMF, we also need supporters for those bills that will succeed in curtailing illegal siphoning of US taxpayer's money. We need everyone to stay vigilant for both, so let us know if you hear of legislation that will help stop fraud.

 

 

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Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt is a Board-certified genealogist specializing in Massachusetts research. She has been taking clients for sixteen years and researches a variety of topics from Mayflower lineages to locating townlands of Irish immigrants. She is a case worker under contract to the US Army on repatriation cases, helping to locate family members of servicemen missing or killed in previous conflicts. She currently serves as a director at Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and editor of the FGS Voice Newsletter, and is past president of MGC. You can read her personal blog at http://pk-pollybog.blogspot.com.

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