Health and Human Services officials have failed to conduct required visits of independent living programs for thousands of people with intellectual and physical disabilities, the agency’s Office of the Inspector General found.
The Administration for Community Living, created within HHS in 2012, administers two independent living programs, which aim to help people with disabilities find housing services, job opportunities and other resources. By law, ACL must carry out compliance reviews of at least 15 percent of the programs that receive federal funding and in at least one-third of the states that receive the funding. The inspector general found ACL has not conducted such visits since it assumed oversight of the programs five years ago.
ACL said it could not conduct the reviews because of limited funds for travel. The office is given a set amount of funding to administer grants to independent living programs and monitor them, but OIG determined it did not set aside enough money to conduct its oversight activities.
“The problem is that these organizations, they’re not large. They’re serving beneficiaries that need a lot of services,” said Mike Barton, assistant regional inspector general for audit services. “These on-site visits would help to ensure the services are being provided, but it’s not being done.”
ACL contends it provides proper oversight through a program it piloted that monitors compliance activities, outcomes, fiscal operations and reports from the programs’ operations.
But disability advocates maintain that visits are critical to ensure the programs are not only operating most effectively, but adequately serving a diverse set of beneficiaries who rely on the services to live independently.
“You have to make sure that independent living programs are serving the full breadth of the disability community,” said Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy for the Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
OIG conducted its audit after receiving a hotline tip that ACL was not carrying out its oversight.
“Because current technology enables ACL to thoroughly review most program components, on-site reviews can be reserved for more complex situations or concerns that require physical inspection,” an ACL spokesperson said in a statement. “This cost-effective approach to monitoring allows us to focus resources on services that directly support people with disabilities.”