July 6, 1999

House Passes H.R. 1802, The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999

On June 25, 1999, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1802, the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. The bill includes provisions relating to foster care and the Social Security and SSI programs.

Social Security and SSI Provisions

Title II of the bill includes Social Security and SSI provisions. There were three changes from the provisions approved by the House Committee on Ways and Means on May 26, 1999 (see Legislative Bulletin 106-8). Floor amendments modified the Ways and Means Committee bill by adding Medicaid protection to the assets held in trust provision, by expanding the Filipino veterans provision to include all World War II veterans, and by requiring SSA to undertake a study of family farmers who have been denied SSI benefits. Following are descriptions of the Social Security- and SSI-related provisions as passed by the House.

Liability of Representative Payees for Overpayment to Deceased Recipients

Would make a representative payee liable for an SSI or OASDI overpayment caused by a payment made to a beneficiary who has died. Also would require SSA to establish an overpayment control record under the representative payee's Social Security number. Would be effective with respect to overpayments made 12 months or more after the date of enactment.

Recovery of Overpayments of SSI Benefits from Lump Sum SSI Benefit Payments

Would require the Commissioner to recover SSI overpayments from SSI lump-sum amounts by withholding 50 percent of the lump sum or the amount of the overpayment, whichever is less. Would be effective 12 months after the date of enactment and apply to overpayment amounts outstanding on or after the effective date.

Additional Debt Collection Practices

Would extend to the SSI program all of the debt collection authorities currently available for the collection of overpayments under the OASDI program. Would apply to amounts of overpayments that are outstanding on or after the date of enactment.

Requirement To Provide State Prisoner Information to Federal and Federally Assisted Benefit Programs

Would require the Commissioner to provide, on a reimbursable basis, information obtained under agreements with institutions for reporting prisoners to Federal or federally assisted cash, food, or medical assistance program. Would be effective upon enactment.

Rules Relating to Collection of Overpayments from Individuals Convicted of Crimes

Would prohibit SSI and OASDI eligibility based on disability for 10 years if ex-fugitive or ex-prisoner knowingly fails to notify SSA at time of (re)application that he or she had received benefits erroneously while in prison or knowingly fails to comply with scheduled repayment of overpayment. The Commissioner would determine whether individuals "knowingly failed" to notify or comply and would take into account the individual's mental or linguistic limitations if any. Also would eliminate waivers of recovery of overpayments caused by imprisonment and require SSA to continue collection efforts while prisoners are in jail. Would apply to overpayments made in, and to benefits payable for, months beginning 24 months or more after the date of enactment.

Treatment of Assets Held in Trust under the SSI Program

Would include in the countable resources of an individual for SSI purposes, the assets of any trust containing property transferred from the individual or spouse to the extent that the assets could be used for the benefit of either. Commissioner would be authorized to waive application of the provision in cases of undue hardship. Would exclude certain trusts (e.g., those established by will, or certain trusts that would repay the State the cost of services provided the beneficiary upon his or her death). Would ensure that SSI beneficiaries who lose their payments because of assets held in trust will not automatically lose their Medicaid benefits. Would apply to trusts established on or after January 1, 2000.

Disposal of Resources for Less than Fair Market Value under the SSI Program

Would provide a penalty under the SSI program for the disposal or resources at less than fair market value. The penalty would be a loss of benefits for a number of months equal to the number of months obtained by dividing the uncompensated value of disposed-of-resources by the Federal benefit rate plus the maximum State supplementary payment applicable to the individual's living arrangement. Would apply to disposal of resources made on or after the date of enactment.

Administrative Procedure for Imposing Penalties for False or Misleading Statement

Would add a new penalty of nonpayment of SSI and/or OASDI benefits for individuals found to have made a statement or representation of material fact for use in determining eligibility for benefits under the Social Security and SSI programs that the individual knew, or should have known, was false or misleading or omitted a material fact, or made such a statement with knowing disregard for the truth. The period of nonpayment would be 6 months for the first violation, 12 months for the second, and 24 months for the third violation. Would be effective with statements and representations made on or after the date of enactment.

Exclusion of Representatives and Health Care Providers Convicted of Violations from Participation in Social Security Disability Programs

Would bar representatives and health care providers from the SSI and OASDI programs if they are found to have helped commit fraud. Bar would be for 5 years, 10 years, and permanent exclusion for the first, second, and third offenses respectively. Would be effective with respect to violations and convictions occurring on or after the date of enactment.

State Data Exchanges

Would deem the SSA's data privacy standards to meet all State privacy standards for purposes of sharing data. Would be effective upon enactment.

Study on Possible Measures to Improve Fraud Prevention and Administrative Processing

Would require the Commissioner in consultation with OIG and the Attorney General to undertake a study to identify possible measures to reduce fraud and improve processing of beneficiaries' reported changes of income. Also requires a report to Congress on legislative and administrative recommendations in these areas. Report would be due not later than 1 year after date of enactment.

Annual Report on Amounts Necessary To Combat Fraud

Would require SSA to include in its annual budget an itemization of the amount of funds required to support efforts to combat fraud by applicants and beneficiaries. Would be effective with respect to annual budgets for fiscal years after FY 1999.

Computer Matches with Medicare and Medicaid Institutionalization Data

Would require the Commissioner to conduct periodic matches with Medicare and Medicaid data held by the Secretary of HHS, and would permit the Commissioner to substitute information from the matches for the physician's certification otherwise required in order to maintain the full benefit level of an individual whose institutionalization is expected not to exceed 3 months. Would be effective upon enactment.

Access to Information Held by Financial Institutions

Would provide that the Commissioner may require SSI applicants and beneficiaries to provide authorization for SSA to obtain any and all financial records from any and all financial institutions. These authorizations would remain in effect, unless revoked in writing. Commissioner need not furnish to the financial institution copies of the authorizations or written certification of compliance with the provisions of the Right to Financial Privacy Act. Refusal to provide, or revocation of, an authorization may result in ineligibility for SSI. Would be effective upon enactment.

Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans

Would establish a new title VIII of the Social Security Act, which would entitle every individual who is a "qualified individual" to a monthly benefit paid by the Commissioner of Social Security for each month after September 2000 (or sooner, if administratively feasible) that such individual resides outside of the 50 States, District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands. A "qualified individual" would be defined as an individual: who is a World War II veteran aged 65 or older who is eligible for SSI in both the month of enactment and the month in which he or she files an application for the special benefits; whose total "benefit income" is less than 75 percent of the SSI Federal benefit rate (FBR); who has filed an application for special benefits; and, who is fully compliant with all other requirements for special benefits imposed by the Commissioner.

Would provide that the amount of the special benefit for a month would be an amount equal to 75 percent of the SSI FBR, minus the amount of the individual's "benefit income" for such month. "Benefit income" would be any recurring payment received by an individual as an annuity, pension, retirement or disability benefit, but only if it were received during the 12-month period immediately preceding an individual's application for special benefits.

Would authorize the Commissioner to prescribe regulations to make administrative arrangements necessary to carry out the special benefit program. Also would authorize the Commissioner to determine when and how benefits would be paid, and provides the authority for redetermining eligibility and suspending benefits under specified conditions.

Would appropriate such sums as necessary to carry out the special benefit program beginning with fiscal year 2001. Would also make conforming amendments for reimbursing the Social Security trust funds for administrative expenses, adding the special benefit program to the programs under the auspices of the Social Security Advisory Board, making civil monetary penalty provisions applicable to the special benefit program, and authorizing recovery of SSI overpayments from special benefits.

Study of Denial of SSI Benefits for Family Farmers

Would require the Commissioner to study the reasons why family farmers with resources of under $100,000 are denied SSI benefits, including whether the deeming policies discriminate against family farmers. The study would include the number of family farmers who have been denied benefits in each of the past 10 years. The Commissioner would be required to submit a report to Congress with the results of the study within 1 year after enactment.

Foster Care Provisions

Title I of the bill would provide States with flexible funding to help children who are likely to "age out" of foster care at age 18 to obtain employment or continue their education. States would promote the self-sufficiency of these young people by providing assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, post-secondary education, career exploration, housing, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in budgeting, substance abuse prevention education, and education in preventive health measures including smoking avoidance, nutrition education, and pregnancy prevention. In addition, Medicaid law would be changed to permit States to provide Medicaid coverage to those 18-, 19-, and 20-year olds who have left foster care. States would also be permitted to use means testing to provide Medicaid to former foster care youths if their income and resources are below certain specified levels