Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) sent a letter to the Commissioner of Social Security, transmitting the legal opinion issued this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the agency's decision to end two programs designed to help disability beneficiaries return to work; the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) and the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) programs. The Commissioner had advised the Congress that because the authorizations of appropriations for these programs had expired, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would stop these programs when their FY 2011 grants expired.
The GAO's legal opinion states clearly that "Because the program authority in the enabling statutes has not expired, and SSA has an appropriation that is available to cover the costs of these programs, we conclude that SSA has adequate authority to continue both programs."
In the letter, Chairman Johnson stated, "For months you claimed your hands were tied and blamed Congress for not taking action to continue WIPA and PABSS. The GAO opinion settles for once and for all that the decision to shut these programs down was both yours alone and wrong."