GAO Report Outlines Improper Federal Employees’ Compensation Payments

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE), Financial and Contracting Oversight Subcommittee Chairwoman Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa highlighted a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled Federal Employees’ Compensation Act: Case Examples Illustrate Vulnerabilities that Could Result in Improper Payments of Overlapping Benefits. The report examines improper and overlapping payments in the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) and Unemployment Insurance programs. The programs are administered by the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) and the Unemployment Insurance program is managed at the state level. In its report, the GAO outlined steps to lower the risk of improper payments, including actions by the Department of Labor, as well as necessary action by Congress to allow the Department of Labor and state governments to perform more effective oversight and payment controls.

“Today’s GAO report demonstrates the need for strong oversight and accountability to protect taxpayers from having to foot the bill for egregious compensation claims from federal employees,” Dr. Coburn said. “The GAO has identified problems at the Department of Labor including issues with incomplete and outdated medical documentation, poor wage-tracking procedures, and failures in identifying overlap with unemployment insurance. With $2.1 billion in wage-loss compensation disbursed in fiscal year 2012, the Department of Labor’s priority should be ensuring American families are not forking over their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for improper and incomplete claims. I look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to make the reforms necessary to FECA to ensure the federal employees’ compensation is not compromised by fraud and abuse.”

“Federal workers provide essential services to the American people – protecting our nation, caring for our veterans, maintaining the safety of our food and water, and much more. In many federal jobs, hardworking officers and employees put their own safety and health at risk in service to the public. When injuries do occur, it is essential that we provide the resources necessary to support and rehabilitate those who have been hurt on the job and help them get back to work as soon as possible,” said Chairman Carper. “This GAO report gives us a very important roadmap to help prevent erroneous payments and to strengthen agencies’ ability to keep the few bad actors from draining scarce funds. Moving forward, Congress, federal agencies, and state governments must work together to ensure that the proper reforms are in place and are being followed. I look forward to working with my colleagues to review GAO’s recommendations further and make improvements to this vital program.”

“Families and businesses in every corner of the country are dealing with the effects of shrinking federal budgets, so it’s disturbing to see this amount of improper and overlapping payments of Americans’ tax dollars,” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “If we’re serious about squeezing every penny of savings possible out of our agencies, then we can start with the low-hanging fruit of stopping these types of improper payments.”

“This program, intended as assistance for injured workers to help them recover and return to work, last year had more than 10,000 employees age 70 or older receiving higher payments on workers’ comp than they would under the standard retirement program. More than 400 of these workers are over 90, and six workers are 100 years old or older. These employees are clearly not coming back to work,” said Senator Collins. “This report has identified significant problems with incomplete and outdated medical documentation, poor wage-tracking procedures, and failures in identifying overlap with unemployment insurance that I have proposed reforms to fix. I look forward to working with Senator Coburn to make sure that the Department of Labor is not paying erroneous compensation claims and that the system is fair for all federal workers.”

“GAO identified a number of cases where federal workers underreported outside income and received unemployment insurance and FECA payments in excess of their federal salary, Chairman Issa said. “Reducing fraud and improper payments within the program will help ensure FECA is available for future generations of civil servants injured in the performance of duty.”