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Federal Government
U.S. Justice Department Seeks Appeal In Obamacare Subsidy Ruling PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 01 August 2014 12:51

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department asked a full federal appeals court Friday to take up a case that has endangered subsidies helping millions of low- and middle-income people to afford their health care premiums under Obamacare.

 
Last week, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.
 
Two judges nominated by Republican presidents formed the majority over a dissent from a Democratic appointee.
 
In an appeals court filing Friday, the Justice Department said that if last week's ruling is ultimately sustained, the decision will impose a severe hardship on millions of people who are receiving tax credits through federally facilitated exchanges.
 
The Justice Department said the disruption threatened by the panel majority's "erroneous interpretation" presents a question of exceptional importance warranting consideration by the full court. A majority would have to agree to the Justice Department's request.
 
The department also noted that a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond unanimously came to the opposite conclusion last week, ruling that the Internal Revenue Service correctly interpreted the will of Congress when it issued regulations allowing health insurance tax credits for consumers in all 50 states.
 
On Friday, the Justice Department asked all the judges on the Washington court to consider the case.
 
If the full court does so, the balance would shift — with eight Democratic nominees and five Republican nominees hearing the case.
 
There are 11 judges on the appeals court. Two judges on the case last week are judges with senior status and would sit with the full court. One was nominated by a Republican president and the other by a Democratic president.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:52
 
U.S. House Committee Passes Bill To Ease Rules For Firing Senior-Level Federal Staffers PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 28 July 2014 12:48

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - The Senior Executive Service Accountability Act has passed muster with a key committee, the first hurdle necessary to make it easier for senior-level federal agency officials to lose their jobs.

 
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), according to Federal News Radio (FNR).
 
Rep. Issa has been at the forefront of the investigations into the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Republicans have expressed outrage that IRS officials have not lost their jobs over the scandal.
 
Among the provisions of the bill is one that would increase the probationary period of certain new hires to two years.
 
According to FNR, the Senior Executives Association is seeking support to kill the bill, sending a letter to Michigan Democrat Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Rep. Issa chairs.
 
More information can be found at http://www.federalnewsradio.com/204/3669429/Bill-making-it-easier-to-fire-Senior-Executives-passes-first-test-
Last Updated on Monday, 28 July 2014 12:48
 
Internal Report: Social Security's $300M IT Project Doesn't Work PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 25 July 2014 12:26

WASHINGTON (AP) — After spending nearly $300 million on a new computer system to handle disability claims, the Social Security Administration still can't get it to work. And officials can't say when it will.

 
Six years ago, Social Security embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. But the project has been racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency.
 
Today, the project is still in the testing phase, and the agency can't say when it will be operational or how much it will cost.
 
In the meantime, people filing for disability claims face long delays at nearly every step of the process — delays that were supposed to be reduced by the new processing system.
 
"The program has invested $288 million over six years, delivered limited functionality and faced schedule delays as well as increasing stakeholder concerns," said a report by McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm.
 
As a result, agency leaders have decided to "reset" the program in an effort to save it, the report said. As part of that effort, Social Security brought in the outside consultants from McKinsey to figure out what went wrong.
 
They found a massive technology initiative with no one in charge — no single person responsible for completing the project. They issued their report in June, though it was not publicly released.
 
As part of McKinsey's recommendations, acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin appointed Terrie Gruber to oversee the project last month. Gruber had been an assistant deputy commissioner.
 
"We asked for this, this independent look, and we weren't afraid to hear what the results are," Gruber said in an interview Wednesday. "We are absolutely committed to deliver this initiative and by implementing the recommendations we obtained independently, we think we have a very good prospect on doing just that."
 
The revelations come at an awkward time for Colvin. President Barack Obama nominated Colvin to a full six-year term in June, and she now faces confirmation by the Senate. Colvin was deputy commissioner for 3½ years before becoming acting commissioner in February 2013.
 
The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Colvin for July 31.
 
The House Oversight Committee is also looking into the computer program, and whether Social Security officials tried to bury the McKinsey report. In a letter to Colvin on Wednesday, committee leaders requested all documents and communications about the computer project since March 1.
 
The letter was signed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and James Lankford, R-Okla. They called the project "an IT boondoggle."
 
The troubled computer project is known as the Disability Case Processing System, or DCPS. It was supposed to replace 54 separate, antiquated computer systems used by state Social Security offices to process disability claims. As envisioned, workers across the country would be able to use the system to process claims and track them as benefits are awarded or denied and claims are appealed.
 
But as of April, the system couldn't even process all new claims, let alone accurately track them as they wound their way through the system, the report said. In all, more than 380 problems were still outstanding, and users hadn't even started testing the ability of the system to handle applications from children.
 
"The DCPS project is adrift, the scope of the project is ambiguous, the project has been poorly executed, and the project's development lacks leadership," the three lawmakers said in their letter to Colvin.
 
Maryland-based Lockheed Martin was selected in 2011 as the prime contractor on the project. At the time, the company valued the contract at up to $200 million, according to a press release.
 
McKinsey's report does not specifically fault Lockheed but raises the possibility of changing vendors and says Social Security officials need to better manage the project.
 
Gruber said Social Security will continue to work with Lockheed "to make sure that we are successful in the delivery of this program."
 
Steve Field, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, would only say that the company is committed to delivering the program.
 
Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That's a 45 percent increase from a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,146.
 
The report comes as the disability program edges toward the brink of insolvency. The trust fund that supports Social Security's disability program is projected to run out of money in 2016. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 80 percent of benefits, triggering an automatic 20 percent cut in benefits.
 
Congress could redirect money from Social Security's much bigger retirement program to shore up the disability program, as it did in 1994. But that would worsen the finances of the retirement program, which is facing its own long-term financial problems.
 
Social Security disability claims are first processed through a network of field offices and state agencies called Disability Determination Services. There are 54 of these offices, and they all use different computer systems, Gruber said.
 
If your claim is rejected, you can ask the state agency to reconsider. If your claim is rejected again, you can appeal to an administrative law judge, who is employed by the Social Security Administration.
 
It takes more than 100 days, on average, to processing initial applications, according to agency data. The average processing time for a hearing before an administrative law judge is more than 400 days.
 
The new processing system is supposed to help alleviate some of these delays.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 12:26
 
Sen. Burr Thanks Charlotte Dad In Opening Statement For Subcommittee on Taxation & IRS Oversight Hearing PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:31

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - At a Senate committee meeting on Wednesday, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr commented on the subject of helping families with disabilities. 

 
In his comments, Sen. Burr thanked Charlotte-area father Robert D'Amelio, who is dad to two children with autism.
 
Sen. Burr's prepared opening statement is below.
 
-------------------------
 
 
Thank you, Chairman Casey and Ranking Member Enzi, for holding this important hearing on the ABLE Act.  I particularly want to thank you, Chairman Casey, as well as Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, for being such passionate advocates for the ABLE Act.  You along with Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Chris Van Hollen and Pete Sessions have been tremendous partners in this effort, and I cannot think of a more energetic or more devoted team for getting the ABLE Act done.
 
Mr. Chairman, as has already been said, the ABLE Act enjoys unprecedented bipartisan support.  Over three-quarters of the Congress has now put their name on this bill as cosponsors, and if we had a vote on it today, I would venture to say that the ABLE Act would pass Congress unanimously.  And the reason is simple -- it just makes sense.
 
It’s hard for me to find a reason why anyone would want to get in the way of a bill that allows the parents of a disabled child the opportunity to save their own money for their child’s future and to give that child a shot at financial independence.  As a father, I know that a piece of the American Dream is what all of us want for our children.  As our inspiring witnesses will share with us today, this dream for themselves and for their children is no less powerful.
 
So, I hope Mr. Chairman that the ABLE Act does not get lost in the shuffle.  It’s unfortunate but in Washington we spend most of our time arguing over the issues that divide us.  For heaven’s sakes, let’s pass a bill that we all support, that we all know is sound public policy, and that we all believe will make a world of difference to families who are simply asking us for hope.  We’ve been working together in good faith with all stakeholders to improve and perfect this bill for 8 years, and its time has come.  Let’s pass the ABLE Act, and let’s do it now.
 
Also, Mr. Chairman, I just want to briefly welcome a fellow North Carolinian, Robert D'Amelio, to the hearing today.  Robert lives in Charlotte, and he and his wife, Christi, are the proud parents of three beautiful children:  Nicholas (18 years), Christopher (15 years) and Lindsey (10 years).  He volunteers his time with the Boy Scouts of America and is a leader in the autism community in Charlotte, as two of his three children are affected by autism. 
 
Bob, I just want to personally thank you and Christi for traveling up to Washington to testify today about the challenges your family has faced and will continue to face as a family affected by autism.  I know the hopes and fears we have for our children can be profound and intensely personal, so I admire your courage – and the courage of all of our witnesses -- in coming here to speak about your deepest hopes and fears publicly.  It will help Congress better understand your unique challenges, and I truly believe that public policy in this area will be better because of your testimony here today.
 
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me the opportunity to speak.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:32
 
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