WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.) today introduced the Holding SSA Employees Accountable Act, legislation that prohibits Social Security Administration (SSA) employees from receiving continued federal retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony as it relates to their official job duties.

“Americans place their faith in the Social Security Administration’s employees and expect them to do their jobs honestly and fairly,” said Congressman Rice. “Employees at the SSA who abuse their positions of trust by committing a felony in connection with their job responsibilities continue to be rewarded by receiving their federal retirement benefits, even though they defrauded the Social Security fund themselves. Unelected bureaucrats in Washington are rarely held accountable for any wrongdoing. This legislation stops these employees from continuing to collect federal retirement benefits at the taxpayers’ expense after violating their position of trust.”

Under current law, federal employees who are convicted of such an offense still continue to receive their federal retirement benefits. Federal employees can only lose their retirement benefits through a criminal conviction related to treason and espionage.  

Background:

In recent years there have been massive fraud cases within the Social Security Administration (SSA) perpetrated by government employees.

In 2018, a Kentucky Social Security Administration Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), whose primary responsibility was to decide disability claims on behalf of the Social Security Administration, was involved in a scam that would have obligated the federal government to pay roughly $550 million in fraudulent disability claims. The ALJ pled guilty and admitted to accepting over $600,000 in total cash payments to rule favorably and award benefits in over 3,100 cases. Under current law, this ALJ would continue to receive his federal retirement benefits even though he abused his authority in his official capacity. 

In 2018, a SSA claims specialist was indicted for creating fraudulent applications for benefits on Social Security earning records of deceased workers. According to the indictment, the claims specialist used her authority at the SSA to approve the applications for survivor’s benefits and then transmitted these fraudulent benefit payments to her own bank accounts. These fraudulent benefit payments totaled almost $700,000. If this claims specialist is convicted of a felony for this wrongdoing, under current law, she could continue to receive federal retirement benefits from the same fund she defrauded.

In 2021, a SSA claims specialist pleaded guilty to theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. Between July 2018 and March 2019, the claims specialist created a Social Security number and identity, used that information to file a benefit claim on a real individual’s Social Security record, and directed these benefit funds to an account the claims specialist controlled. The total attempted fraud loss from this scheme after expanding it to include other individuals and other real individuals’ records is more than $236,000. Under current law, this claims specialist would receive federal retirement benefits even though he used his position to commit fraud.

The Holding SSA Employees Accountable Act would amend the Social Security Act to prohibit Social Security Administration employees who are found guilty of committing a felony as it relates to their job responsibilities from receiving continued federal retirement benefits. 

Read the bill text here.