OMB guides agencies to speed benefits to hurricane victims

The Office of Management and Budget today issued guidance to agencies on how to eliminate barriers to the quick distribution of benefits to qualified individuals in need as a result of the recent hurricanes. At the same time, agencies must verify eligibility for benefits to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in improper payments.

'These common-sense measures, many of which are already in place, ensure that people who have lost everything won't wait for bureaucracy,' said Clay Johnson III, OMB deputy director for management.

The guidance is the result of information on best practices that agencies are using to streamline the delivery of benefits and apply compensating controls.

For example, agencies should assist individuals in re-acquiring personal documents. In the meantime, they should speed the delivery of assistance by waiving traditional enrollment criteria that require such documents, since many evacuees' personal belongings were destroyed or are unavailable.

Federal agencies must also give hurricane victims the opportunity to authorize the sharing of their personal information among agencies to eliminate filling out multiple and duplicative applications for different agencies' benefit programs.

To ensure that the new benefit procedures do not lead to waste, fraud or abuse, agencies should sunset these procedures and step up post-payment verification procedures. To compensate for front-end controls that have been limited or waived, agencies should increase post-payment audits, offset the amount of future payments where overpayments were identified and increase the number of post-payment auditors.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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