Recently introduced legislation would prohibit Social Security Administration (SSA) employees from being eligible to receive their federal retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony as it relates to their official job duties.
Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC) introduced the Holding SSA Employees Accountable Act (H.R. 4396) to hold SSA employees who “abuse their positions of trust” accountable for their crimes.
“Americans place their faith in the Social Security Administration’s employees and expect them to do their jobs honestly and fairly,” said 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.”
The legislation would amend the Social Security Act to prohibit federal employees at SSA who are found guilty of committing a felony as it relates to their job responsibilities from receiving continued federal retirement benefits which includes annuity payments.
Federal employees can only lose their retirement benefits under current law if they are convicted of a crime related to national security matters such as treason or espionage. While it is extremely rare, there has been at least one case where a former federal employees lost his pension over crimes of which he was convicted that were not related to matters of national security, apparently due to the heinous nature of the crimes.
According to a press release about the bill, Rice introduced it because of some recent fraud cases involving SSA 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.