This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-02-964R 
entitled 'Oversight of the Management of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs: Are the Complaints Justified?' which was released on July 19, 2002. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. General Accounting Office 
(GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a 
longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to Webmaster@gao.gov. 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

GAO-02-964R: 

United States General Accounting Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

July 19, 2002: 

The Honorable Stephen Horn: 
Chairman, Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations: 
Committee on Government Reform: 
House of Representatives: 

Dear Mr. Chairman: 

This letter responds to the question you raised during your May 9, 2002, hearing on “Oversight of the Management of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs: Are the Complaints Justified?” You asked whether GAO thought it would be a good idea for the Congress to provide the Department of Labor with legislative authority to access the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) wage data, which Labor could then cross-match with Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA) benefits. 

Our work has shown that such cross-matching or data sharing can be a valuable management and oversight practice. OWCP already has the right to access SSA data. However, such access is subject to SSA’s approval—the Code of Federal Regulations (20 C.F.R. 10.527) provides that “OWCP may verify the earnings reported by the employee through a variety of means, including but not limited to computer matches with the Office of Personnel Management and inquiries to SSA”. 

If the Congress believes that OWCP should have direct access to SSA’s database—without being subject to approval by SSA—the Congress can provide for such access in legislation. Prior GAO work has demonstrated the importance of and potential savings from checking applicants’ and beneficiaries’ initial and continuing eligibility for federal benefits by verifying the economic information they provide with independent, third-party sources. For example, in our report entitled Benefit and Loan Programs: Improved Data Sharing Could Enhance Program Integrity
(GAO/HEHS-00-119, Sept. 13, 2000) we estimated that direct on-line connections between SSA’s computers and databases maintained by state agencies containing information on wages, welfare benefits, and workers’ compensation benefits could have prevented or more quickly detected $131 million in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) overpayments in one 12-month period. The report included a matter for
consideration by the Congress that it consider legislative amendments to improve the ability of federally funded benefit and loan programs to obtain and share the information they need to make accurate eligibility determinations while protecting personal privacy. In addition, our 1998 report entitled Supplemental Security Income: Action Needed on Long-Standing Problems Affecting Program Integrity (GAO/HEHS-98-158) cited prior work that determined recipients not always reporting required information was resulting in overpayments of supplemental income by SSA.
The report recommended that the Social Security Commissioner enhance SSA’s ability to verify applicant- and recipient-reported eligibility information and deter overpayments by accelerating efforts to identify more timely and complete sources for verifying financial eligibility information. Such sources could include other federal agencies or third parties. 

We remain available to discuss these issues further with you or members of your staff. My phone number is (202) 512-9490. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

George H. Stalcup: 
Director: 
Strategic Issues: 

[End of correspondence] 

GAO’s Mission: 

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, 
exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional 
responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability 
of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use 
of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides 
analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make 
informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to 
good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability. 

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony: 

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through the Internet. GAO’s Web site [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov] contains abstracts and fulltext files of current 
reports and testimony and an expanding archive of older products. The 
Web site features a search engine to help you locate documents using 
key words and phrases. You can print these documents in their entirety, 
including charts and other graphics. 

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as “Today’s Reports,” on its 
Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 
files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov] and select “Subscribe to daily E-mail 
alert for newly released products” under the GAO Reports heading. 

Order by Mail or Phone: 

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to: 

U.S. General Accounting Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room LM: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

To order by Phone: 
Voice: (202) 512-6000: 
TDD: (202) 512-2537: 
Fax: (202) 512-6061: 

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs Contact:
Web site: [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm]: 
E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov: 
Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470: 

Public Affairs: 

Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov: 
(202) 512-4800: 
U.S. General Accounting Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room 7149:
Washington, D.C. 20548: