GAO: White House hampering federal efforts to reduce identity theft through Social Security number use

GAO: White House hampering federal efforts to reduce identity theft through Social Security number use

The Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services has announced its plan to remove Social Security numbers from beneficiaries’ Medicare cards, but the Government Accountability Office said Thursday that it is still waiting for the White House Office of Management and Budget to take further action to reduce the use of the identifier elsewhere.

In an effort to prevent identify theft, CMS said it will begin mailing new cards to beneficiaries in April 2018, with the goal that all Medicare cards are replaced by April 2019. The cards each will contain an identifier other than a Social Security number.

In fact, 24 federal agencies developed plans to reduce unnecessary collection, use and display of Social Security numbers, the GAO said in a new report, but the agencies have been impeded from fully implementing those plans by statutes and regulations that mandate collection of the identifier, the fact that the numbers are needed for agencies to interact with one another and technologic constraints of agency systems and processes.

“Further, poor planning by agencies and ineffective monitoring by OMB have also limited efforts to reduce SSN use,” the authors said.

The report noted that the Social Security Administration created an online clearinghouse of best practices for reducing the use of Social Security numbers but that it no longer is available online.

The GAO recommended that the OMB:

  • Tell agencies what they need to include in their plans for reducing the unnecessary collection, use and display of Social Security numbers, and mandate that all agencies develop and maintain complete plans.
  • Require agencies to modify their inventories of systems containing personally identifiable information to indicate which systems contain Social Security numbers, and use the inventories to monitor their reduction of unnecessary collection and use of Social Security numbers.
  • Provide criteria to agencies on how to determine what use is unnecessary so that reduction efforts are consistent.
  • Take steps to ensure that agencies provide up-to-date status reports on their progress.
  • Establish performance measures to monitor agency progress.

The OMB has not responded to the GAO’s recommendations, the GAO said.

Article source: http://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/news/gao-white-house-hampering-federal-efforts-to-reduce-identity-theft-through-social-security-number-use/article/678167/

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