Saturday, July 22, 2017

Federal Spending

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Budget Committee
"Ok, how do we want to waste taxpayer money this year fellas?"

The budget resolution of $1.1 trillion from the House Budget Committee has a questionable future as an internal conflict arose among the representative of the GOP over the $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts.

After an extensive session where the democrats were expected to propose 28 different amendments, the budget committee is set to finally pass the budget. The steps that follow are not concrete yet as the Republicans are still short of votes needed to pass the resolution on the House floor.

The chairwoman of the committee, Diane Black, says that she will make sure each and every member understands the value and significance of whatever they decide to add in the resolution before everyone reaches a general consensus.

The Freedom Caucus have managed to secure reductions worth $53 billion as a result of weeks of pushing higher mandatory spending cuts to offset discretionary spending in the proposed resolution. However they are asking for almost twice the previous amount coming mostly from Medicaid, welfare programs, nutrition assistance as well as education. Few of those savings would be the result of adding work requirements for Medicaid and the Welfare Support Programs.

According the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, Todd Rokita, the economic growth has been said to be slower than anticipated while millions of citizens are choosing not to even look for a job.

Centrist Republicans say the mandatory cuts are too much to be pushed through as part of the reconciliation process. According to them, the proposed budget resolution is oblivious of the political realities that exist.

Democratic support in the Senate will be required to pass any spending package. Same goes for lifting the budget caps to appropriate significant increases for the defense budget.

As the legislative weeks come to an end of the fiscal year 2017, they say that instead of negotiating a deal at the eleventh hour, the Republicans should negotiate with the Democrats otherwise it will yield different spending levels.

“We are writing the appropriations bill with numbers that are not real,” said Tuesday Group co-Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), citing the budget’s $511 billion allocation for nondefense discretionary spending and $621.5 billion allocation for defense.

The Co-Chairman of the Tuesday Group, Charlie Dent, says that the appropriation bill is being drafted by them is using numbers that are far from reality while citing the $621 billion budget allocation for the defense and $511 billion for non-defense discretionary spending.

While referring to a republican plan of speeding up the process by combining all 12 appropriation bills into a single bill called the ‘omnibus’ he said, “Everyone knows that there will be a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement at some point, and that 511 number will come up, the 621 number on defense will come down, those will be the real numbers, and the real omnibus will be later this year.”

Some members of the GOP are still concerned that they need more time to read the complex bills before the vote while others want to proceed with the plan as is.

Another complication for the budget is the fact that the efforts to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, also collapsed in the Senate.

The Republicans will be patient and let Senate do their job with the proposal as they have no plans to alter the healthcare assumptions of the budget plan. Whereas, the groups leaning to the left and the Democrats stood up against the budget plan, considering them to be cruel cuts,

“House Republicans have devised a toxic budget whose sole purpose is to hand tax breaks to billionaires on the backs of seniors and hard-working Americans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.).

Budget Committee ranking member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said that Black had not invited him for any discussions on the budget and predicted that the resolution would fail on the House floor.

According to John Yarmuth (D-KY.), ranking member on the Budget Committee, Black did not invite him or any discussions on the budget. He further expects the resolution to fail on the House floor.

“The problem with the whole exercise is that it is designed to pave the way for a huge tax cut,” he said.

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Environmental Disaster
If video games really had power to fix the environment, Al Gore would have nothing to fear... And the amount of video games I play would be less embarrassing.

The feds believe that spending $200,000 on a video game that focuses on the importance of clean water can be a total game changer in promoting health.

The National Institutes of Health has announced a $200,000 in grants for a video game about clean water. The video game is supposed to help the children playing it “right the environmental wrongs,” in the fictional town portrayed in the game.

“Improving STEM-focused curriculum is a primary objective of the current U.S. administration and is crucial for ensuring that upcoming generations receive the training and skills necessary to compete in the existing global economy,” the grant for the project argued.

“To that end, there is an urgent need for additional effective teaching tools able to reach a generation that requires instant access to information and advanced technology,” it further stated.

The project which started as of July has currently received a sum of $224,999 in grants with research that shall continue all the way through 2018. The Meadowlark Science and Education announced their very special project and indicated that they are actively working on their project for producing a video game called “Water Follies.”

“You play as Clark Flyer, a meadowlark who works together with a diverse cast of lovable animal characters, to solve and correct environmental issues plaguing their town,” Meadowlark Science and Education stated. “Clark’s goal is to convince the reluctant politicians in power that clean, lead-free drinking water should be everyone’s top priority.”

It has been noted that the target audience for the video game that promotes a healthy environment is aimed to be fifth and sixth graders, who can make use of the game to not only increase their knowledge in areas of Science, Technology and Mathematic, but would also contribute towards increasing their “awareness of the importance of clean water.”

“Of particular interest to this proposal is the development of a highly effective, marketable, and interactive educational video game (iEVG) that focuses on STEM topics and targets 5th and 6th grade students—the age at which interest in STEM subjects is developed or lost,” the grant indicated.

While the feds believe that a video game can make a much greater contribution than fixing the problem of bad drinking water itself, it was only last year that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) highlighted that they had issued water quality violation notices to 37% of Texas’s 3,780 small community water systems. With around 350 of the system had some very serious violations. Moreover, a recent article by USA Today indicated that in Ranger, Texas, where the city’s water system that was built to serve a population of more than ten times its current size was subjected to serval serious violations – and these just few of the many issues that the country is facing in relation to the lack of availability of clean water.

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We don't have massive amounts of debt right?

In a classic example of government waste, the taxpayer-funded program (Medicaid) that provides health insurance for the poor spends over $100 billion on “demonstrations” to promote the benefit that already covers millions of people nationwide. That’s an astounding 33% of Medicaid’s total federal budget for experiments and projects that supposedly help states test and evaluate new approaches to deliver the welfare benefit, which is already spread thin.

Medicaid is administered by states and is jointly funded by the federal government and states. Millions of low-income adults, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities are covered under the program, which cost American taxpayers an eye-popping $545.1 billion in 2015, according to government figures. A little-known section of the Social Security Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to approve experimental, pilot or demonstration projects that promote the objectives of Medicaid and its counterpart, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as if they really need to be further publicized. The purpose of the demonstrations, according to the Social Security Act, is to expand eligibility to individuals who are not otherwise Medicaid or CHIP eligible, provide services not typically covered by Medicaid and use innovative service delivery systems that improve care, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Ultimately, the goal is to increase and strengthen states’ overall coverage of low-income individuals, enhance access to provider networks that serve low-income populations and boost the efficiency and quality of medical care through “initiatives” that “transform service delivery networks.” This could mean anything. The only restriction is that the demonstrations must be “budget neutral,” which means that the money comes out of the federal portion Medicaid’s budget. In fiscal year 2015 Uncle Sam blew $109 billion to promote Medicaid, according to a scathing federal audit, that blasts the program for wasting 33% of its budget on such nonsense. Medicaid’s demonstration spending ballooned from $29 billion in 2005 to the $109 billion in 2015, the audit reveals. In ten states demonstration expenditures comprised 75% or more of total Medicaid expenditures, the probe reveals. Six other states spent between 50% and 75% of their Medicaid budget on demonstrations.

California takes the prize for wasting $76.4 million on Medicaid demonstrations in a five-year period analyzed by investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress. The Golden State went from spending 2.6% of its Medicaid expenditures on demonstrations in 2005 to a whopping 55% in 2015. California’s exorbitant demonstration budget caught the attention of congressional investigators who flagged state for having financial compliance issues. “As of the end of fiscal year 2013, California withdrew $1.3 billion more in federal matching funds for its Medicaid program than it reported in actual expenditures and according to CMS officials California could not account for the difference,” the report states, adding that the discrepancy is specifically related to demonstrations.

Like many bloated government programs Medicaid has long been plagued by uncontrollable fraud and corruption that gets worse with time. Less than a year ago Judicial Watch reported that an HHS Inspector General probe found Medicaid spent $26 million to provide dead people with health insurance in one state alone. The investigation centered on Florida and covered a five-year period from 2009 to 2014. The government simply continued making payments to the insurance companies contracted to provide medical coverage for the state’s low-income residents long after beneficiaries had passed away. Years earlier the GAO uncovered tens of thousands of instances of fraud involving Medicaid’s prescription drug program in only a handful of states, estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers about $65 million.

In an embarrassing effort to combat fraud, Medicaid devised a program that cost the government more than five times the amount of scams it identified. The failed anti-fraud project is known as the National Medicaid Audit Program and it was launched to tackle a monstrous epidemic of overbilling for medically unnecessary treatments, services and procedures not covered under Medicaid. Back in 2012 Judicial Watch reported that the National Medicaid Audit Program cost the government $102 million to operate while identifying only $19.4 million in overpayments.

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You are currently pay around $41 per year to fund the United Nations.  Are you cool with that or would you rather keep your money?

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In a final push to end prejudice against minorities throughout the U.S., the Obama administration is spending another $37.3 million to combat housing discrimination and, as usual, the money is flowing straight into the coffers of leftist groups that share the president’s ideology. Throughout his two terms Obama has allocated colossal sums of taxpayer dollars to combat what he believes is an epidemic of discrimination against minorities in everything from the criminal justice system to education, housing and the workforce.

This has been a government wide effort in which a number of federal agencies have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a multitude of controversial initiatives. Among the biggest spenders has been the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Judicial Watch has reported on this waste over the years, including the results of a probe that revealed HUD violated a ban on federal funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) by giving the famously corrupt group tens of thousands of dollars in grants to “combat housing and lending discrimination.”

Congress passed a law in 2009 to stop the huge flow of taxpayer money that annually went to ACORN after a series of exposés about the leftwing group’s illegal activities yet the Obama administration has continued giving it cash, mainly to fight housing discrimination.

This is a cause dear to the president’s heart so HUD has funded it generously, increasing the amount each year even when the nation suffered through a financial crisis. In 2011, for instance, JW reported that HUD awarded 108 “fair housing organizations” north of $40 million to educate the public and combat discrimination. The allocation represented a $13.2 million increase over the previous year to end housing discrimination against minorities. In 2012 HUD gave leftwing groups $42 million to provide minorities with “housing counseling.”

Among the biggest recipients was the open borders nonprofit National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which has seen its federal funding skyrocket since one of its top officials got a job in the Obama White House. In one HUD allocation, NCLR got nearly $2 million to help combat predatory lending, train poor Latinos about financial literacy and help them become homeowners.

It appears that the administration plans to keep the cash giveaway alive until the very end. This latest $37.3 million allocation will go to groups that “fight housing discrimination under HUD’s 2016 Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP),” according to an agency announcement. FHIP gives money to organizations that assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination and directs them to government agencies to handle their complaints. The groups investigate claims and deploy minority and white “testers” with equal financial qualifications to determine if housing providers treat them differently based on race. FHIP also conducts outreach, education and enforcement initiatives that promote fair housing laws and equal housing opportunity awareness. It’s all in the name of leveling the playing field.

To accomplish this task in other areas the administration utilizes different agencies. For example in the workforce the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the president’s discrimination police. Last year JW reported that the agency earned accolades and shattered performance records by getting more than $525 million in settlements for reported victims of discrimination in both private and public sector jobs. The breakdown includes $356.6 million for “victims” of employment discrimination in private, state and local government jobs and $105.7 million for federal employees and applicants who never got hired, presumably because they encountered discrimination.

Of important note is that the EEOC received 89,385 charges alleging employment discrimination during the fiscal year yet resolved 92,641. The extra 3,256 cases evidently were dug up by the agency’s “front-line staff,” which produced $60 million in monetary benefits over fiscal year 2014, demonstrating “high productivity of the EEOC workforce,” according to the agency’s fiscal year 2015 report.

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Sex Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has been awarding grants to the South African Government to fund a reduction in HIV infections among commercial sex workers in their nation.

Since 2011, U.S. taxpayers have funded a whopping $3,499,670 in grants to protect prostitutes in South Africa.

The latest payment occurred in 2016 where the U.S. government issued an award of $308,785.

The funds are not only used to dole out free condoms, but also educate prostitutes on negotiating tactics to use on their Johns who are reluctant to use protection when paying for sex.

A study conducted in 1995 in the American Journal of Public Health described the risks that South African hookers face . . . but there was no correlation to the health and safety of United States citizens.

Prostitution in South Africa has remained illegal since 1957.

Paying $3.5 million to protect criminals (victimless or not) seems to be burden that the United States taxpayer should not be forced to pay.

The nation of South Africa, since the rule of its African leaders, has produced 38,000 child prostitutes within their society.

Rather than protecting prostitutes from HIV and AIDS in a foreign nation, the United States government, if anything, should be forcing the South African government to put an end to child prostitution in that nation.

Comment below.

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carry guns

After Obama’s 2013 executive order authorizing the study of “causes and consequences of gun violence” the National Institutes of Health has released $288,529 to Arizona State University to conduct a study.

However, the study is restricted only to research of young “urban” males, which they later explain is limited to “minority” males and their reasoning for carrying firearms.

The grant title, “Psychological and socio-contextual factors in gun carrying and firearms violence” came with the following description, which appears to draw its own conclusions:

Murder is the second leading cause of death among young males in the US, with most of these killings resulting from gun violence in urban minority communities. Policy and behavioral interventions to address this problem have been largely ineffective. Existing research on this issue has been almost exclusively cross- sectional, meaning that many of the factors linked to gun carrying and use (i.e., as part of an antisocial lifestyle, for self-protection, or as a product of social influence) may or may not be influential.A 2013 Presidential Memorandum provided an opportunity to conduct NIH-funded research on the causes and consequences of gun violence in urban males (PA-13-363); research previously banned by Congress. This is a response to that call for innovative research to address this issue. Longitudinal studies would provide more valid information than currently available about the purported factors related to gun carrying and use. These would, however, be lengthy and costly. The proposed project uses two of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies of males ever conducted to examine the mechanisms related to gun carrying and use in urban males from adolescence to young adulthood. Complementary analyses, using comparable measures, will be conducted with a high-risk community sample (i.e., Pittsburgh Youth Study; N=1,009) and a sample of serious juvenile offenders (i.e., Pathways to Desistance study; N=1,107). Together, these studies have information on gun carrying/use as well as theoretically relevant factors related to these behaviors (e.g., drug dealing, victimization) measured at least annually from ~ages 10 to 25. Both have a substantial proportion of youth who have carried guns and shot at others. This is a unique opportunity to do theoretically, programmatically, and policy relevant research on a pressing social problem. Applying state-of-the-art longitudinal approaches, this study will a) use intra-individual analyses to delineate the inter-related effects between individual psychological and socio-contextual variables across development, focusing on factors implicated in the current theoretical formulations regarding gun carrying and use (e.g., psychopathy, gang membership), b) examine the bidirectional effects (i.e., variables as both a cause and a consequence) of gun carrying/use and victimization and attitudes toward violence, c) identify the factors related to the transition from gun carrying to gun use, and d) examine whether certain factors (e.g., drug dealing) are more influential for gun carrying/use among minority vs. White males and whether any racial/ethnic differences are attributable to a disproportionate exposure to specific risk factors (e.g., neighborhood crime). This proposed project is a unique, cost effective opportunity to move research on gun violence forward substantially. It enriches theory about the processes of gun carrying/use, and informs interventions to make them more effective. It will identify what specific risk factors should be targeted, to whom certain types of interventions are most relevant, and the developmental point when specific interventions are most salient.

The study is clearly aimed at those young black makes who illegally carry, despite gun laws such in Chicago that are the most restrictive in the nation despite the highest crime rate.

How young black males obtain firearms as they pretend to be gangsters is not a focus of the study, rather a touchy, feely, “how do we intervene” and get them to stop wanting firearms.

The government could have saved nearly $300k of taxpayer’s hard earned dollars by realizing that in areas where violent crime is most prevalent (Chicago and D.C.) is also where citizens are not permitted to own firearms.

The correlation to race has nothing to do with a desire to own a firearm.

Personal protection, regardless of a criminal/legal occupation is a necessity . . . and only criminals own firearms where none are permitted. Those who illegally carry in a virtual “gun free zone” wield significantly more personal power and the equivalent social standing. I.e., it’s cool.

The government can make it “uncool” by honoring the Second Amendment.

There you go.

[Note to the National Institutes for Health: please remit a check for $288,529 through the address on our contact page.]

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If you’re having trouble making ends-meet with your job, you might want to go on welfare.

Apparently, thanks to the wasteful programs of the federal government, welfare pays even better than working!

A shocking study from the free market think tank, Cato Institute, revealed that, in the vast majority of states, welfare pays higher than the federal minimum wage.

But, even more surprising, a number of states pay even higher than the average national household income of $50,500—putting welfare recipients in the top 50% of wage “earners” in America.

That means, if you make roughly what the average middle-class American makes, people on welfare may be taking home more money than you—and they’re making wages that the middle class can only dream of.

Hawaii leads the pack—handing out a whopping $60,590 a year to people on welfare. That’s the equivalent of $29.13 per hour, if welfare was a job that required a 40-hour work week (it doesn’t.) More than 4 times the minimum wage.

$60,590 a year for doing absolutely nothing, other than sitting on a beach in Hawaii all day, doesn’t sound too shabby.

But Hawaii isn’t alone: if you’re a welfare recipient in the District of Columbia or Massachusetts, you’re also making more than the national average, at $50,820 and $50,540, respectively.

In fact, 35 states pay a welfare recipient more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, enabling them to take home more money than many people who actually put in a full day of honest work.

So if you’re looking for a new “job,” without all of that pesky “working” involved, government handouts may be for you!

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clean cookstoves

The U.S. government has spent over $300 million on “efficient cook stoves” for developing nations and the federal employee behind the costly initiative just got a prestigious award that’s supposed to honor those “whose work makes our country better, healthier and stronger.”

It’s not clear how American taxpayer-funded stoves operating in a poor African village makes the U.S. better, healthier and stronger. What we do know for certain is that Uncle Sam has been a major contributor to a United Nations project, called Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, that aims to improve the lives of those living in the poorest areas of the world by reducing the health risks of indoor smoke from cooking meals over open fires and crude stoves.

Exposure to indoor smoke from cooking is the world’s fourth worst health risk, the U.S. government asserts, citing the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that it kills 4.3 million people annually. In all, 500 million lives in 100 million impoverished households will benefit from the multi-million-dollar clean stove program, according to the U.S. government. The hardest hit areas include sub Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, Guatemala and India. Stoves will “save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions,” the Clean Cookstoves website states.

It’s a noble cause, but how does the U.S. and its residents benefit from this? The federal employee who just received an award for his role in the initiative works at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His name is Jacob Moss and he’s being recognized for his “commitment and innovation in helping to create and lead an initiative to enable homes in developing nations to adopt cleaner, more efficient cookstoves and fuels to improve and save lives.” This month he won the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies), known as the Oscars of government service.

Winners represent the many federal employees whose work makes our country better, healthier and stronger. “The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals highlight excellence in our federal workforce and inspire other talented and dedicated individuals to go into public service,” according to the awardwebsite. It goes on to say that the awards align with the founder’s “vision of a dynamic and innovative federal workforce that meets the needs of the American people.” This brings up a valid question; how are the needs of the American people met by providing third-world countries with stoves?

Moss is getting the honor because he was a central architect in the program to enable homes in developing nations to adopt cleaner, more efficient cookstoves and fuels to improve health and save lives, according to the EPA. “Jacob truly embodies the spirit of commitment and service that this award honors,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “He has dedicated his professional life to eliminating the risks of toxic smoke from indoor cookstoves – one of the deadliest threats facing billions of people across the developing world.” Nearly 500 nominations were submitted this year and winners were chosen by a committee of leaders in government, academia, media and the private sector.

In 2010 Judicial Watch reported on a similar U.S.-funded program to replace “inefficient cook stoves” that were supposedly contributing to climate change and deforestation in developing countries. The Hillary Clinton State Department was responsible for that project, which received at least $50 million from American taxpayers and was formally announced at a Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York. The allocation was justified with claims that smoke from “primitive stoves” was a leading environmental cause of death and disease and a huge contributor to global warming.

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At a time when the federal government is running hundreds of billions of dollars in annual budget deficits… is carrying a national debt of well over $18 trillion dollars… and with unfunded entitlement programs trillions of dollars in the red… the Social Security Administration (SSA) overpaid nearly $17 billion in fraudulent SSA disability payments over the last decade.

According to an audit of the SSA’s books by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), some beneficiaries were paid disability benefits for 10 years even though they were ineligible including 216,070 payments to fugitives and prisoners.

The OIG based its estimate of $16.8 billion overpayments on a sample of more than 1,500 Americans who received disability benefits since 2003 that found nearly half were overpaid.

“Our review of 1,532 beneficiaries in current pay status as of October 2003 found that over a 10-year period (from October 2003 through February 2014), SSA assessed overpayments for 44.5 percent of sampled beneficiaries,” the audit said.

“SSA assessed overpayments totaling about $16.8 billion between October 2003 and February 2014 for approximately 4 million beneficiaries who were in current payment status in October 2003…” according to the audit document.

Of that, the agency was able to recover approximately $8.1 billion, though it is still trying to retrieve $6.3 billion in benefits.

The average beneficiary in the OIG’s sample received improper payments for 14 months. Most earned too much or were able to work, making them ineligible for disability. The findings also included 209,643 payments to dead people.

Frank Cristaudo, counselor to SSA Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, said federal law requires the agency to continue paying beneficiaries who may be medically ineligible until after they appeal, a process that can take years.

“We appreciate OIG’s follow-up work from the previous review”…“While the report does not contain any recommendations, we suggest some further clarification of the text of the report,” Cristaudo said.

“During our review of the preliminary findings, we suggested that the OIG clarify the characterization of payments made during the appeal of a medical continuing disability review (CDR) determination to cease benefits,” he said.

“We are required to continue payments for the duration of an appeal, and these payments are later deemed overpayments if we uphold the CDR cessation on appeal. These payments are clearly not ‘improper’ as that statute requires that we make the payment.”

The SSA began conducting annual audits of the SSA disability program at the request of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) back in 2006. The audit also revealed that:

The SSA “prevented about $8 billion in overpayments between October 2003 and February 2014 to approximately 1 million beneficiaries in current pay status in October 2003 by suspending monthly payments.”

When asked for his response to the audit results, Senator Grassley said:

“Every dollar that goes to overpayments doesn’t help someone in need. Given the present financial situation of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund, the program cannot sustain billions of dollars lost to waste.

While the complete elimination of overpayments for either the SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs may not be feasible, the agency is failing beneficiaries and needs to improve its work to rein in the problem.

Congress also may need to look at what additional tools could be provided to further track down and prevent overpayments.”


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