Feb 6, 2018

Rep Payee Bill Passes House

     From a press release:

The House voted 396-0 today to pass H.R. 4547, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 – bipartisan legislation to strengthen and improve the representative payee program to better protect vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own funds. ...
CLICK HERE for the legislative text of the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018.

CLICK HERE to read the Ways and Means Committee's technical explanation outlining H.R. 4547, and CLICK HERE to read the letter that the Committee sent to the Social Security Administration afterwards.

CLICK HERE to learn more about how this bipartisan bill helps millions of Americans.


Anonymous said...

Social Security was intended as a financial social safety net for those most vulnerable. It was not intended to fund state protection and advocacy organizations. This legislation assumes that SSA has the resources to fund a specific national association and the protection and advocacy community (in essence, a small group of politically connected individuals with their own financial interests) to monitor the health and welfare of disabled individuals with payees. This work of monitoring those most vulnerable, should already be happening in large part through grants provided by HHS and the Administration on Community Living.

We all should be interested in understanding more about this section of the law, the underlying data supporting an expansion of the program in this way, and the rationale and evidence for directing the agency to fund protection and advocacy groups. Who are they, what do they do specifically, who are they accountable to for reporting how grants are spent, who audits them, how was the baseline $25 Million annual budget for them determined, what techniques do they use for detecting bad payees, how do they report when a payee does not use benefits for the individual, who is doing the work of finding new payees when a change is needed, how do they separate this work from other grants they receive from HHS and the ACL? Further, how many “national associations” exist to manage state protection and advocacy groups? Not many. Perhaps just one. For the 4% administrative fee, or a million dollars minimum annually, what does the national association do? Who gets that money and what assurances are there that bad payees will be detected and removed?

This legislation says nothing about oversight and accounting or the administrative costs of the state and local non-profits, or the “national association.” In fact, on average, salaries at these non-profits range from $55-$75 and above, and include other “fringe benefits” which they advertise are readily available http://www.disabilityrightswi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Fin-Dir-Announcement.pdf. Finally, and perhaps most notably, absent from the protection and advocacy and the national association websites is concrete data on “outcomes.” Not at all surprising, someone has worked hard lobbying on Capitol Hill to get this chunk of pork added..

Eric Buehlmann said...

It appears that Anonymous did not take the time or effort to read the accompanying material with the press release on passage of H.R 4547 or they would have found out the answers to many of their questions.

The history and technical explanation document (https://waysandmeansforms.house.gov/uploadedfiles/02.05.18_representative_payee_committee_document.pdf) answers many questions in detail, laying out the need for the legislation and the Committee’s rationale for these changes. In addition, the following report on the work that the nationwide network of Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems performed in the past provides the numerical evidence supporting the unanimous House vote to mandate that the nationwide network of P&A Systems perform this work in the future: http://www.ndrn.org/images/Documents/Resources/NDRN_Rep_Payee_Overview_-_July_2016.pdf.

Nevertheless, let me address a couple of points directly.

First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has long been mandated to monitor the representative payee program. In fact, ensuring that the benefits are being used properly is a critical part of guaranteeing the safety net the benefits are intended to create. If the money is being stolen or not used properly then the benefits are not serving as a safety net at all. Monitoring allows these benefits to serve as a safety net.

While other federal agencies perform monitoring reviews, those reviews are focused on the use of funds related to those programs (i.e. the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services performing monitoring on the use of Medicaid funds). These other federal agencies are not ultimately responsible, like SSA, for how the representative payee program is being run and are looking at different funding streams, requirements, and outcomes. Congress recognized the importance of having an entity perform the representative payee reviews that has a broader expertise, knowledge, experience than just Social Security, and as discussed in the technical explanation document believes that the nationwide network P&A Systems has demonstrated that through their 40 years of advocacy for people with disabilities.

Finally, anonymous seems takes issue with the pay scale of the P&A Systems. As in all industries, P&A salary scales are based on local/regional market influences, skill sets necessary for the position, and responsibilities. But more importantly, anonymous implies that P&A staff that perform this important monitoring work and are knowledgeable and experts on Social Security benefits and other important issues like how to communicate effectively with beneficiaries that are non-verbal, how to detect abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation, whether a beneficiary can benefit from a referral to Vocational Rehabilitation or the Assistive Technology Grant programs, or qualify for other health benefits, should not receive competitive compensation for this knowledge and expertise. This important monitoring work requires individuals that are knowledgeable on many issues, effective communicators, and experts on signs and clues about financial exploitation and abuse and neglect. Anonymous seems to feel that a person with no expertise in these areas, who could therefore be paid very little, would be acceptable to perform this critical monitoring function.

It is unfortunate that Anonymous has chosen to not avail themselves of the information that is available in the documents listed above before making blanket assertions not supported by the public material.

Anonymous said...

said Eric Buehlmann, NDRN executive, and potential benefactor of $1 Million (minimum) per year, should this bill become law.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an episode of "American Greed"