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1998-04-07 14:19:43


Sen. Grassley Warns Social Security: Start Cooperating!



Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has sent a warning to Social Security Administration: start coopertating with the General Accounting Office. Specifically, present a written descriptioin of contingency plans.

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Washington, D.C. -- Seeking accountability from the federal government agency that touches the lives of the more than 50 million Americans who rely upon its programs, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today released a letter he sent to Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Kenneth Apfel regarding the integrity of the information provided by agency officials to government investigators and the public regarding the readiness of the SSA computer system for the Year 2000. . . .

Specifically, Grassley revealed in his letter that one or more SSA officials in the Office of Systems failed to cooperate fully and completely with evaluators from the General Accounting Office (GAO) during a recent review of the contingency plans in place at the SSA for the Year 2000 program. The SSA told the GAO that it had "started work on that plan [a formal contingency plan for our Year 2000 program]," However, according to the GAO, "when we requested copies of the contingency plans, they [SSA] acknowledged that this planning had not been documented." Grassley said this was neither an acceptable, accurate nor complete response to the GAO evaluators. "Just as lawyers say about a verbal contract, an undocumented contingency plan is only as good as the paper on which it's written," he said. . . .

Grassley's December 16 letter to Apfel also questioned why the most recent report regarding SSA Year 2000 compliance efforts included information based upon other reports which SSA acknowledged, in response to earlier questioning by Grassley, were incomplete and in need of modification. . . .

Grassley unveiled his review of the Year 2000 compliance program at the SSA earlier this fall, when he released a GAO report detailing key risks that remain and urged the President to set a responsive tone for the administration. In its report, the GAO said: Unless timely corrective action is taken the Social Security Administration (SSA), like other federal agencies, could face critical computer system failures at the turn of the century due to incorrect information processing relating to dates. Grassley said three specific areas of concern were outlined in November by the GAO:

1. The state Disability Determination Services have not been assessed for Year 2000 problems. These agencies serve as the gatekeepers for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. Disruptions could prevent or delay assistance to millions of individuals.

2. The SSA data exchange partners, who provide data such as the wage and tax information needed to determine proper benefits, may not be Year 2000 compliant. The SSA exchanges data files with hundreds of federal and state agencies and thousands of private businesses. If the data exchange partners are not Year 2000 compliant, new applicants for any SSA program could be at risk.

3. There is a complete lack of a contingency strategy at the SSA. Contingency plans are vital to Year 2000 risk management. They allow an organization to ensure the continuation of core business practices if corrective work is not completed or an unforeseen problem occurs. With no backup plans, any current or potential beneficiary is at risk if the system their benefits depends on doesn't work properly. . . .

In 1997, 6.6 million people nationwide received SSI benefits; 6.1 million received Social Security disability insurance benefits; and, 37.8 million people received Social Security retirement benefits. In 1996, 41,950 Iowans received SSI benefits; 42,500 Iowans received Social Security disability insurance benefits; and, 342,480 Iowans received retirement benefits from Social Security. Grassley was elected Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging in January 1997.


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