Uncle Sam to Pay Millions to Illegal Aliens, Courtesy of the IRS!

unclesambroke

During a hearing last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the tax consequences of the President’s unilateral action that essentially grants amnesty to five million people in the country illegally,  specifically as it relates to their eligibility for the earned income tax credit (EITC). Guidance issued by the IRS in 2000 suggests individuals benefitting from the President’s immigration action will be eligible to claim the refundable EITC for previous tax years in which they were not authorized to work in the United States.   Grassley asked Koskinen whether the IRS intended to revisit the 2000 guidance in light of the President’s executive action.  Koskinen agreed to respond and recently did so by letter.  The letter confirms the IRS intends to stick by its previous interpretation of the EITC eligibility requirements.  As a result, individuals in the country illegally who are benefitting from the President’s action will be eligible to claim the EITC for up to three previous tax years even though it would be based on earnings made while working illegally in the United States. According to IRS data, the average EITC credit in 2012 was just over $2,300 and the maximum available credit in 2014 is  $6,143.  Grassley made the following comment on this information.

 

“An estimated five million people in the country illegally will remain here under the President’s executive action.  Given the IRS’ interpretation of tax rules intended to prohibit undocumented  workers from qualifying for the EITC, these individuals will be eligible to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits based on earnings from unauthorized work in the United States.  With the stroke of a pen, the President rewarded those working illegally in the United States with a tax benefit that is designed to encourage low-income individuals to enter the workforce.  Given that the IRS is intent on standing by its present interpretation of the eligibility requirements, I’m working on legislation to uphold an important principle that many of us in Congress support.  The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws.”

Want Free Room & Board in a Gorgeous Mansion? Try House Sitting! by Susan Caba.

Babel

I am living the life of the rich and famous, although I am neither.

I’m following good weather and my whims around the country, moving from one luxury home to another. My accommodations last year have ranged from a mansion in Washington, D.C., around the corner from the home of former Senator John Glenn, to a woodsy retreat in Chapel Hill, N.C., to a sprawling Philadelphia condo with an exclusive Rittenhouse Square address.

At the moment, I’m living in a hillside house in Santa Barbara, Calif. The scarlet bougainvillea, attended by hummingbirds, competes for sunlight with the lavender blooms of jacaranda trees and spiky purple agapanthus in the garden. The Pacific is an indigo wedge on the horizon. I’ll swim a few lengths of the pool — no suit needed — before showering in a spa-like master bath with heated floors. For these two months, I’m driving a vintage white Mercedes nicknamed the Sugar Cube.

My cost for living in this Southern California splendor? Nothing. I tend three cats, feed a tank of fish and mist the Boston ferns in return for lodging. I’m a house sitter, part of a thriving network of full- or part-time vagabonds.

House-sitting is one more example of the upending of the travel industry by the combination of social networking and the sharing economy. The difference between house-sitting and companies like Couchsurfing — in which the person who owns the home is paid — is that no cash is exchanged. Neither I nor the homeowners I sit for spend any money.

I started house-sitting inadvertently, when an acquaintance in Santa Barbara wanted someone to mind her cats for two weeks. She had tapped out her family connections. I was already spending four to six weeks of every winter and summer — when the weather in St. Louis is either lethally cold or horrifically hot — in California, so I jumped at the chance. We’ve repeated the arrangement every year since, with the length of her vacations, and mine, gradually growing. That got me wondering about other house-sitting opportunities.

I listed my availability on Craigslist; no response. I considered contacting universities, looking for professors going on sabbatical, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. Eventually I Googled “house-sitting” and found several websites that registered ­homeowners and house sitters. They cost between $10 and $100 a year for membership, which gives you access to the listings.

Homeowners post descriptions of their homes and pets, as well as the dates they need a sitter, anywhere from a weekend to several months. Potential sitters provide a brief profile, any house-sitting experience, contact information and references. Reading the listings is like being addicted to gumdrops: Do I want three weeks in a house with a horse in Brittany, or a month in Costa ­Rica on an estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean?

After more research, I joined two sites: TrustedHouseSitters.com, a three-year-old organization based in Britain, and HouseCarers.com, based in Australia and in business since 2000. Both list house-sitting opportunities in the United States, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Continental Europe and, to a lesser extent, other places around the world.

Why, you may ask, would anyone entrust their home and possessions to strangers?

Some homeowners, especially those who will be gone a significant amount of time, just want their houses occupied as a security measure (statistically, an occupied house is safer than one left empty). That was the case for my stay in Washington. I arrived just after the last snowstorm, in April, and left before the onslaught of summer.

But pets are the reason for 80 percent of house-sitting arrangements, said Andy Peck, the founder of TrustedHouse­Sitters.com, who started out house-sitting on a multimillion-dollar estate in Spain.

“People want their pets to be comfortable, in their own environment,” he said. “From the sitter’s point of view, there are a lot of people who genuinely love looking after pets, especially while having a ‘staycation’ and enjoying luxury, sometimes decadent luxury, while living like a local in a fantastic place. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

So far, I’ve cared for cats, some fish and one dog. I get a lot of laughs reading the descriptions of required pet care, from clipping the nails of 13 indoor cats to nursing a diaper-wearing, diabetic dog through his final days while his owners jet off to Costa Rica. One homeowner sought care for “4 horses, 2 dogs, 8 cats and a pet pig who lives in the house, in addition to chickens and ducks and 2 very friendly goats.”

As for the trust issues, the websites don’t make any matches or vouch for the accuracy of the listings. It’s up to sitters and owners to find one another through the listings, then vet one another by exchanging emails, talking by Skype or telephone and, in some cases, meeting in person. The sites strongly encourage sitters to post references and even undergo police background checks. They provide sample agreements spelling out the responsibilities of both parties.

Retiring baby boomers and workers in the freelance economy who, like me, can do business anywhere with a laptop and a smartphone make up the primary supply of house sitters. Families looking to take interesting vacations during school holidays are another source. (Homeowners specify whether their property is suitable for children, and many encourage families.) The same groups are often looking for house sitters themselves.

There are risks on both sides of the arrangement. Besides theft or damage, there’s the possibility that sitters will cancel at the last minute, ruining expensive travel plans. Sitters, too, may face the unexpected. A friend of mine agreed to move into a Victorian house in Colorado for a month, only to find that one of the two dogs she’d be watching was a snarling hound of the Baskervilles.

My only mishap was being caught skinny-dipping — twice — in Santa Barbara. The Guatemalan pool guy unexpectedly changed his schedule so he could watch the World Cup. At least I was in the deep end.

Last year, I sold my house and unmoored myself from any one location, to indulge my wanderlust for a year. I’m already booked through February. I’ve had to pass on that house with the Pacific Ocean view in Costa Rica, a month in Boston’s Beacon Hill and a cottage in the Cotswolds. I’m beginning to think that a year might not be long enough.

Ex-Nazis Awarded Millions of Dollars in American Social Security.

Adolph Hitler and Nazi marching in cartoon illustration by Willard Mullin


Grassley, Hatch Press Social Security Administration, Justice Department

on Benefits for Suspected Nazis

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch are seeking details from the Social Security Administration and the Justice Department on Social Security benefits given to suspected ex-Nazis.  It’s unclear why the federal government allowed millions of dollars to flow to these individuals, including those who have left the country. Record-keeping discrepancies have exacerbated uncertainty and confusion over U.S. government practice and policy on allowing ex-Nazis to retain their Social Security benefits.

“We have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to close the Social Security loophole in order to prevent this practice in the future and hope that it will become law soon,” Grassley and Hatch wrote in letters to each agency.  “However, there remain questions about DOJ’s actions and what will be done in current cases if the law is not passed before they are resolved.”

Grassley and Hatch asked for statistics in areas including the total number of Nazi suspects who received Social Security benefits after leaving the United States, how many suspected Nazis currently receive Social Security benefits and live outside the country, information on the potential outcome of certain identified cases, and details of interaction between the Social Security Administration and the Justice Department on the issue.

Hatch is the sponsor and Grassley is an original cosponsor of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to terminate Social Security benefits for Nazi persecutors who receive them because of a loophole in current law.  The practice appeared to be little-known in recent years until an Associated Press report exposed the practice, leading to scrutiny from Congress and public outcry.

National Adoption Day is This Coming Saturday.

newsie

Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

National Adoption Day on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

Delivered Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014

 

On Saturday, many children and families around the country will celebrate National Adoption Day.  It’s a day that many adoptions are finalized and youth find their forever families.

 

It’s very comforting and fitting that this day helps kick off the holiday season.  Families will be formed and strengthened.  This Thanksgiving, many children will celebrate with their new families and not have to worry about their next placement or their next meal.  And this month, we give thanks to the men and women who make their dreams come true.

 

Since the first National Adoption Day in 2000, nearly 50,000 children have joined “forever families” during National Adoption Day.  In 2013 alone, adoptions for 4,500 children were finalized through 400 National Adoption Day events across the county.

 

These are impressive numbers — numbers that make us proud of the work being done to help children in foster care find loving families. But there is always more work to be done.

 

Today, there are over 102,000 children in the foster care system.  Iowa alone has over 6,200 children in foster care, many of whom are waiting for a loving family to adopt them.

 

There are so many issues facing foster youth – in addition to being torn apart from their families.  They face serious trauma.  They are likely to be treated differently, and don’t get to do the same activities as other kids.  They transition from home to home, and school to school.  They don’t know normalcy.  And they may never know permanency.  And, after years of challenges, some are forced to transition to adulthood on their own.  Unfortunately, each year over 23,000 youth age out of care in the U.S.

 

Too many older children in foster care, especially those with special needs, are often the ones who wait the longest to leave foster care.  Foster youth simply desire to have what so many of us were blessed to have — that is, a home with caring, loving parents and siblings.  These kids are less likely than younger children to find “forever homes.”

 

That is why I helped form the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  I wanted to draw attention to the challenges that older foster youth face.  The caucus has allowed Congressional leaders to become more aware of the issues faced by young people and families who are involved in the foster care system.

 

The caucus cannot function without the input and insight from foster youth.  These children are the experts on the foster care system.  They tell us what works or what needs to change.  They share their experiences and provide us with real world stories about how our policies truly affect them.

 

The caucus and the youth who share their experiences remind us that no child is unadoptable.  No child should be without a mom and dad. And we must remember that foster care should be a layover, not a destination.

 

November is National Adoption Month, a time to raise national awareness of adoption, and celebrate families, advocates and volunteers involved in adoption.  It’s also a time to devote more attention to policies and practices that protect the safety and well-being for all children.

 

I am hopeful that Congress will continue to look for ways to improve the foster care system and promote adoptions.  I am glad Congress worked to enact a bill this year to renew the adoption incentives program and to do more to screen and help foster youth who may be trafficked.  We must continually examine how the system is treating youth, and whether policies in place are strengthening families.

 

There are many youth who will celebrate this holiday season without a permanent family.  Hopefully, our celebration of National Adoption Month will raise awareness of the issues they face and the need to find them a mom and a dad.  We need to keep working together to break down the barriers to adoption.

 

So today, I thank all those who have adopted or who have fostered children who needed it.   And, I thank the many individuals and organization that work to make permanency possible for children.  I know many dreams will come true this Saturday, and I wish the very best to the youth as they begin their journey with their new families.

 

Iowa Congressman Threatens to Hold Up Nomination of HUD Official That Oversees Housing for Homeless.

You don't have to be crazy to be in Congress, but it helps.
You don’t have to be crazy to be in Congress, but it helps.

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

Grassley Announces Intent to Object to HUD Nominee Consideration Over Agency Rush on Moving to Work Contracts, Lack of Program Oversight

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today said he intends to object to Senate consideration of a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) nominee over the agency’s apparent rush to negotiate new contracts with local housing authorities participating in the Moving to Work demonstration program.  Grassley announced his hold on the nomination of Lourdes Castro Ramirez to be the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.  A group of housing advocacy organizations is concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding the contract negotiations.

“I recently learned that HUD is negotiating new, ten year contracts with the thirty-nine housing authorities participating in the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program. The Office of Public and Indian Housing is also responsible for administering this program but has failed to conduct proper oversight for years,” Grassley said in a statement.  “The current contracts don’t expire until 2018 so there’s no need to rush into signing new contracts. Instead, I recommend HUD takes serious steps to address the program deficiencies and determine if this demonstration should continue.”

Grassley’s objection would take place if and when the nomination reaches the full Senate.  His statement is available here.  A letter from the housing advocacy organizations to HUD is available here.

Need a Nice, Long, PAID Vacation? Work for Uncle Sam!

slowburn

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

 

Grassley, Issa Seek Agency Explanation of Federal Workers on Long-term Paid Leave

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa today asked the federal agencies featured in a critical government audit to account for the hundreds of federal employees on paid leave for a year or more.

“Each agency handles administrative leave on its own terms in the absence of clear guidance that should apply to everyone,” Grassley said.  “The result is employees’ getting paid to stay home, sometimes for more than a year, while management looks the other way.  This is detrimental to taxpayers and good government.  The agencies should account for each case of paid leave, especially those lasting more than a year.  The explanations will help Congress arrive at solutions to stop abusively long leave.”

“Given the GAO’s report showing the incredible amount of money being spent on leave, Congress must know how it is possible that agencies’ current processes result in gross overuse of paid administrative leave, wasting taxpayer funds,” Issa said.  “The GAO reported that the VA continued to pay nearly 6,000 workers for one to six months, with no obligation on these employees to work. The taxpayers have the right to know why their money was spent on paid administrative leave instead of caring for our nation’s veterans.”

 

Grassley and Issa wrote to 17 agencies and the inspector general for one agency featured in a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued this week at their request, along with Sen. Tom Coburn.  The report documented paid leave for what appears to be the first time, finding that over a three-year period, data covering about 60 percent of all civilian federal employees found that more than 57,000 employees were on paid administrative leave for more than a month, costing $700 million in salary alone, excluding benefits.   About 4,000 of the employees were off the job for three months to a year and 263 employees for one to three years.  The most common reason cited for periods of extended administrative leave to GAO was “personnel matters” such as investigations into misconduct and “pending administrative actions.”

 

The Grassley-Issa letter to each agency is the same except for the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs received a special question since it had more employees on extended leave than any other agency on a per employee basis.  And rather than write to the State Department directly, Grassley and Issa wrote to the agency inspector general and asked for an inquiry into why the State Department doesn’t provide the data to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) like the other agencies in the report and asked the inspector general to gather the data directly from the State Department since GAO couldn’t get the information through OPM.

 

The agency answers, along with the GAO report, will help inform what kind of legislation might be needed to limit administrative leave and hold agencies accountable for the decisions agencies have made to keep employees on leave for more than a year.

 

Grassley is working with Sen. Jon Tester on potential legislation that would force agencies to make a decision on whether an employee is a danger to fellow employees and must be removed from the workplace or whether that person can be reassigned while his case is resolved.  The goal is to make sure federal employees are working for taxpayers and not lingering on paid leave at taxpayer expense, Grassley said.

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This expose is brought to you by Nu Skin.  Treat your skin right and it will treat you right.

The International Year of the Family Farm.

Bipartisan resolution, which coincides with a similar United Nations designation, recognizes the important contribution of family farming in providing food security and eradicating poverty around the world

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced that their bipartisan resolution designating 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming passed the Senate. The resolution, which coincides with a similar United Nations designation, recognizes the important contribution of family farming in providing food security and eradicating poverty around the world.

“Family farmers across the world lift up their communities with every harvest,” Klobuchar said.  “This action in the Senate recognizes that rural communities are the backbone of local economies around the world, and honors the contributions that family farmers make in our global fight to eradicate poverty and hunger.”

“I’m glad the Senate passed this resolution recognizing the contributions that family farmers make to the world community,” Grassley said. “Farming is a tireless and often thankless way to make a living, yet time and time again, family farmers stand ready to feed and fuel societies around the globe.”

The text of the resolution is available below.

 

Designating the year of 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming”.

 

Whereas United Nations Resolution A/Res/66/222, adopted by the General Assembly on December 22, 2011, designates the year 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming”;

 

Whereas the International Year of Family Farming recognizes the important contribution of family farming in food security and eradicating poverty around the world;

 

Whereas in the United States, family farms constitute 96 percent of all farms;

 

Whereas the agriculture sector contributes more than $130,000,000,000 to the United States economy, employs approximately 14 percent of the total workforce in the United States, and accounts for nearly 5 percent of the United States gross domestic product;

 

Whereas 45 percent of individuals around the world make a living directly by farming;

 

Whereas family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in both developing and developed countries;

 

Whereas family farming serves as a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fishery, pastoral, and aquaculture product;

 

Whereas family farming plays important socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural roles;

 

Whereas family farmers grow high-quality food, are active participants in civil society, and are stewards of the land;

 

Whereas 75 percent of the poorest individuals around the world live in rural areas;

 

Whereas family farms are linked to most areas of rural development and have invested significantly in local communities;

 

Whereas the majority of farmers around the world are women who produce up to 80 percent of food around the world; and

 

Whereas 870,000,000 individuals are suffering from chronic undernourishment and a disproportionate number of such individuals are farmers: Now, therefore, be it

 

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1)   designates the year 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming”;

(2)   congratulates family farmers in the United States and around the world;

(3)   recognizes the vital role family farms play in the economic and social well-being of the United States and around the world;

(4)   recognizes the importance of raising the profile of family farming by focusing the attention of individuals around the world on the significant role of family farming in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development in rural areas;

(5)   encourages countries, national organizations, and States to undertake activities to support the International Year of Family Farming;

(6)   recognized the role and importance of women in family farming;

(7)   emphasizes the positive impact of family farms and developing new programs for domestic and international family agricultural development; and

(8)   advocates for the protection of the viability of family farms, which serve as the foundation of rural society and social stability.

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This agricultural blog is brought to you by Kellogg’s.  Start every day with Kellogg’s breakfast cereals!

Want a Paid Two-Year Vacation? Work for the U.S. Government!

slowburn

For Immediate Release

Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Grassley Seeks Details of Process for Investigating Government Watchdogs Facing Complaints

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today sought data on the process of investigating government watchdogs accused of wrongdoing.  A recent case involving the inspector general of the National Archives and Records Administration took almost two years to resolve while the inspector general was on paid leave, prompting concerns that the investigative process is too slow.

“Extended investigations are harmful to the independence and integrity of the IG community,” Grassley wrote to the chair of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.  “They also prevent agencies from effectively resolving allegations against a member of senior leadership.  Placing an IG on administrative leave through the duration of a multi-year investigation could also constitute the constructive removal of an IG.  Without a consistent, transparent, and efficient investigative process, the CIGIE IC will not be able to perform its essential function: to ensure that the IG community is living up to the standards it sets for the Executive Branch.”

Grassley said that in light of these concerns, Congress needs to review Integrity Committee data to consider improvements to the process.   He asked for data on the number of complaints to the integrity committee; the length of time to process such complaints, including key determinations and decision-making; and how often complaints result in integrity committee or criminal investigations.

Grassley and other observers have noted that the integrity committee might meet too infrequently to resolve complaints in a timely fashion.  Also, agencies might have an incentive to delay the process, such as by making multiple submissions or re-submitting allegations, to extend the period of operating without a permanent watchdog.

Grassley is a long-time advocate for strong, independent inspectors general and the good government they help to establish.

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Why Don’t They Just Flush Our Money Down the Toilet?

flush

Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014

Grassley Seeks Answers on DEA Payment of $854,460 for Amtrak Passenger Information

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration why it paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over 19 years for train passenger information it could have received for free, according to an inspector general report.  Grassley is concerned that the DEA might have paid for the information instead of working cooperatively with a drug enforcement task force to get the material at no cost.

“In addition to the unnecessary expenditure of $850,000, DEA’s actions reflect an unwillingness to cooperate jointly with the (Amtrak Police Department) on investigations of narcotics trafficking on Amtrak property,” Grassley wrote to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.  “This undercuts the purpose of the joint drug enforcement task force and prevented the (Amtrak Police Department) from coordinating and sharing information with the DEA.”

Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, asked for an explanation of the incident and any resulting disciplinary action against responsible employees, details of any other instances of improper payments for information, and a description of any efforts to prevent such unnecessary payments going forward.  He said the incident “raises some serious questions about the DEA’s practices and damages its credibility to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies.”

The incident came to light through one paragraph in an Amtrak inspector general report.  The report said the Amtrak secretary provided passenger information to the DEA “without seeking approval from Amtrak management or the Amtrak Police Department.”  The secretary was “removed from service, and company charges were filed.  The secretary chose to retire,” according to the inspector general report.  It’s unclear how Amtrak noticed the payments.

 

Federal Health Care Cost Overruns Cost Taxpayers Millions.

slowburn

GOP Oversight Leaders Demand Answers on CMS Contracts for HealthCare.gov

WASHINGTON – Republican oversight leaders today sent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner a letter asking a number of questions regarding the handling of CMS’s HealthCare.gov contracts.  The letter comes after the GAO issued a report yesterday detailing CMS’s ineffective oversight in managing HealthCare.gov contracts, resulting in massive and unnecessary cost overruns.  The letter was signed by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee; Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former Finance Committee Chairman; Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Ranking Member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Representative Dave Camp (R-Michigan), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; and Representative Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

 

“Americans deserve a government that is held accountable, and that accountability should extend to the companies that work for the federal government.   We hope that CMS will take steps to increase its oversight of contractors in the future, as well as address the problems that caused HealthCare.gov to crash on launch, and improve the procurement process to ensure that contracts are issued and maintained in accordance with government wide standards as articulated in the FAR,” the lawmakers wrote.

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

 

July 31, 2014

 

The Honorable Marilyn Tavenner

Administrator

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

7500 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21244

 

Dear Administrator Tavenner:

 

It is no secret that the rollout of the state and federal exchanges established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) did not go smoothly.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has now issued a report highlighting a number of findings regarding potential violations of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) System specifications by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) during the HealthCare.gov contracting process.

 

GAO’s report details significant problems in CMS’s oversight of the contracting process for HealthCare.gov, and its IT contracting process in general.  GAO highlighted the fact that CMS did not conduct proper oversight of the project or follow best practices for contract management.  For example, CMS did not follow its quality assurance surveillance plan (QASP) for the project, and it is unclear if CMS prepares QASPs for its IT projects at all.  Also, HealthCare.gov experienced massive cost overruns.  GAO found that in at least 40 instances, additional costs were approved by CMS officials who were not authorized to make those decisions.  This was done without the knowledge or consent of the CMS contracting officer.

 

Americans deserve a government that is held accountable, and that accountability should extend to the companies that work for the federal government.   We hope that CMS will take steps to increase its oversight of contractors in the future, as well as address the problems that caused HealthCare.gov to crash on launch, and improve the procurement process to ensure that contracts are issued and maintained in accordance with government wide standards as articulated in the FAR.

 

With that in mind, we request that you provide the following information:

 

1)      According to GAO, 62 different contracts and task orders were used to support the development of HealthCare.gov.  What specifically was purchased under each of the 62 task orders, and why was each one necessary?

2)      Did CMS pay contractors to develop the requirements for the federally-facilitated marketplace and data hub?  If so, what is the amount of funding paid to develop these requirements?

 

3)      According to GAO, CMS had a stated priority of meeting deadlines with respect to HealthCare.gov and its deliverables.  To accomplish that end, contracts were granted without complete statements of work or technical specifications.  How did CMS select contractors to do work when the end requirements were not known?

 

4)      GAO also found that CMS paid contractors for work that was incomplete or for work not yet started when they received payment.  What is CMS’ justification for paying contractors for incomplete or nonexistent work?

 

5)      What was CMS’ overall acquisition strategy for HealthCare.gov?  If there was not an overall strategy, why did CMS not have one?

 

6)      Was a QASP system developed to aid in CMS’ HealthCare.gov contracting oversight efforts?  If so, was it employed?

 

7)      Were reviews of contractor activities required by contract task orders?  If so, how often did those reviews occur and did they occur as scheduled?

 

8)      Did CMS ever withhold or not perform any scheduled contract reviews?

 

9)      Who at CMS was responsible for ordering contract review changes and who kept track of those changes and the impact the changes had on overall contractor costs?

 

10)   Were contract review changes required to be approved by a technical review board or some other third party entity to ensure they were necessary?

 

11)   According to GAO, the Chief Operating Officer of CMS sent, and then recalled, a letter to CGI Federal to document performance failures and lay the groundwork to recover funds from the contractor.  Why was the letter drafted?  Who decided to recall the letter, and why?  Please provide copies of all records related to the recall of the letter.

 

12)   According to GAO, the costs associated with the sole source follow-on contract awarded to Accenture have risen from $91 million to $175 million as of June 2014.  What explains this cost growth?  What is CMS’ current estimate of the costs to complete work under contract with Accenture?

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We would appreciate a response by August 22, 2014.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Kim Brandt with Senator Hatch’s Finance Committee staff at (202) 224-4515, Tegan Millspaw with Senator Grassley’s Judiciary Committee staff at(202) 224-5225, Kathryn Edelman with Senator Coburn’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs staff at (202) 224-4751, Sean Hayes with Chairman Upton’s Energy and Commerce staff at (202) 225-2927 or Adam Pradko with Chairman Camp’s Ways and Means staff at (202) 225-3625.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Orrin Hatch                                            Fred Upton                                                      Dave Camp

Ranking Member                                Chairman                                                          Chairman

Senate Finance Committee            Energy and Commerce Committee       Ways and Means Committee

 

Charles Grassley                                  Tom Coburn, MD

Ranking Member                                Ranking Member

Senate Judiciary Committee           Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee