October 21, 2021

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Federal Court Permanently Enjoins Tax Return Preparers in Louisiana

9 min read
<div>A federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has permanently enjoined two New Orleans-area tax return preparers from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.</div>
A federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has permanently enjoined two New Orleans-area tax return preparers from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.

More from: September 16, 2021

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  • Drug Misuse: Agencies Have Not Fully Identified How Grants That Can Support Drug Prevention Education Programs Contribute to National Goals
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Education (Education), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) manage six key federal grant programs that can support drug prevention activities in schools. The flexibility of these grants supports a variety of drug prevention education programs. The agencies generally monitor grantees' compliance with grant requirements through periodic reporting. The aim of the National Drug Control Strategy (Strategy) is to reduce drug misuse, but HHS, and ONDCP have not fully defined how several key grant programs support the Strategy. ONDCP's guidance directs agencies to report, for each grant program, performance measures that relate to the Strategy's goals. However, some performance measures for several programs did not relate to drug prevention, did not link directly to the Strategy's prevention goals, or were not reported at all. For example: A $372 million set-aside for HHS's Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program must be used on drug prevention, but HHS did not link the program's performance measures to the Strategy's prevention education goal.   ONDCP did not report on any performance measures in the Strategy or document how its $100 million Drug-Free Communities Support program contributes to achieving specific goals in the Strategy. GAO also found that the approximately $10 million grants to states component of Education's School Climate Transformation Grant program could more fully provide performance information related to the Strategy's prevention education goal. Fully understanding these programs' contributions to the goals of the National Drug Control Strategy could help Congress and the public better understand and assess how the nation's significant investments in drug prevention education programs help address the drug crisis. Most people who develop a substance use disorder begin using substances as adolescents. To reach adolescents, drug prevention programs are frequently provided in schools. Education, HHS, and ONDCP manage most federal programs that support school-based drug prevention activities. This report (1) describes how Education, HHS, and ONDCP support drug prevention activities in schools, and monitor those efforts and (2) examines the extent to which these agencies identify how their prevention activities support the National Drug Control Strategy. GAO reviewed agency documentation, the 2019 and 2020 National Drug Control Strategy documents which ONDCP identified as being most relevant to our review including the fiscal year 2019 drug control budget, ONDCP guidance, relevant federal laws, and GAO's prior work on attributes of successful performance measures that can help achieve agency goals. GAO also interviewed federal and state officials. GAO is making four recommendations, including that Education, HHS, and ONDCP clarify how grants that can include drug prevention education programs support related goals of the National Drug Control Strategy. HHS and ONCP agreed with the recommendation and Education partially concurred, saying it would explore collecting and reporting related performance data. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • Former Bureau of Prisons Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing an Inmate and Witness Tampering
    In Crime News
    Eric Todd Ellis, 32, a former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) corrections officer at the FCI-Aliceville facility in Aliceville, Alabama, pleaded guilty today in federal court to one count of sexual abuse of a ward and one count of tampering with a witness.
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  • Medicare and Medicaid: COVID-19 Program Flexibilities and Considerations for Their Continuation
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing Medicare and Medicaid, made widespread use of program waivers and other flexibilities to expand beneficiary access to care. Some preliminary information is available on the effects of these waivers. Specifically: Medicare. CMS issued over 200 waivers and cited some of their benefits in a January 2021 report. For example, CMS reported that: Expansion of hospital capacity. More than 100 new facilities were added through the waivers that permitted hospitals to provide care in non-hospital settings, including beneficiaries' homes. Workforce expansion. Waivers and other flexibilities that relaxed certain provider enrollment requirements and allowed certain nonphysicians, such as nurse practitioners, to provide additional services expanded the provider workforce. Telehealth waivers. Utilization of telehealth services—certain services that are normally provided in-person but can also be provided using audio and audio-video technology—increased sharply. For example, utilization increased from a weekly average of about 325,000 services in mid-March to peak at about 1.9 million in mid-April 2020. Medicaid. CMS approved more than 600 waivers or other flexibilities aimed at addressing obstacles to beneficiary care, provider availability, and program enrollment. GAO has reported certain flexibilities such as telehealth as critical in reducing obstacles to care. Examples of other flexibilities included: Forty-three states suspended fee-for-service prior authorizations, which help ensure compliance with coverage and payment rules before beneficiaries can obtain certain services. Fifty states and the District of Columbia waived certain provider screening and enrollment requirements, such as criminal background checks. While likely benefitting beneficiaries and providers, these program flexibilities also increase certain risks to the Medicare and Medicaid programs and raise considerations for their continuation beyond the pandemic. For example: Increased spending. Telehealth waivers can increase spending in both programs, if telehealth services are furnished in addition to in-person services. Program integrity. The suspension of some program safeguards has increased the risks of fraud, waste, and abuse that GAO previously noted in its High-Risk report series. Beneficiary health and safety. Although telehealth has enabled the safe provision of services, the quality of telehealth services has not been fully analyzed. Why GAO Did This Study Medicare and Medicaid—two federally financed health insurance programs—spent over $1.5 trillion on health care services provided to about 140 million beneficiaries in 2020. Recognizing the critical role of these programs in providing health care services to millions of Americans, the federal government has provided for increased funding and program flexibilities, including waivers of certain federal requirements, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, GAO has issued a series of government-wide reports from June 2020 through March 2021. GAO is continuing to monitor and report on these services. This testimony summarizes GAO's findings from these reports related to Medicare and Medicaid flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as preliminary observations from ongoing work related to telehealth waivers in both programs. Specifically, the statement focuses on what is known about the effects of these waivers and flexibilities on Medicare and Medicaid, and considerations regarding their ongoing use. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed federal laws, CMS documents and guidance, and interviewed federal and state officials. GAO also interviewed six provider and beneficiary groups, selected based on their experience with telehealth services. GAO obtained technical comments from CMS and incorporated them as appropriate. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or farbj@gao.gov or Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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  • Results-Oriented Cultures: Implementation Steps to Assist Mergers and Organizational Transformations
    In U.S GAO News
    The Comptroller General convened a forum in September 2002 to identify useful practices and lessons learned from major private and public sector mergers, acquisitions, and organizational transformations. This was done to help federal agencies implement successful transformations of their cultures, as well as the new Department of Homeland Security merge its various originating components into a unified department. There was general agreement on a number of key practices found at the center of successful mergers, acquisitions, and transformations. In this report, we identify the specific implementation steps for the key practices raised at the forum with illustrative private and public sector examples. To identify these implementation steps and examples, we relied primarily on interviews with selected forum participants and other experts about their experiences implementing mergers, acquisitions, and transformations and also conducted a literature review.At the center of any serious change management initiative are the people. Thus, the key to a successful merger and transformation is to recognize the "people" element and implement strategies to help individuals maximize their full potential in the new organization, while simultaneously managing the risk of reduced productivity and effectiveness that often occurs as a result of the changes. Building on the lessons learned from the experiences of large private and public sector organizations, these key practices and implementation steps can help agencies transform their cultures so that they can be more results oriented, customer focused, and collaborative in nature.
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  • Federal Real Property Asset Management: Additional Direction in Government-Wide Guidance Could Enhance Natural Disaster Resilience
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Selected agencies have taken some actions to incorporate resilience to natural disasters into their assets through processes used to make portfolio-wide decisions—known as “asset management”. GAO has previously identified characteristics for effective asset management, such as using quality data on assets. GAO found that selected agencies varied in how they incorporated resilience when applying these characteristics. For example, some agencies collected natural disaster risk data across their portfolios by conducting vulnerability assessments, whereas, others have not. In addition, officials from all four selected agencies said they primarily incorporate resilience information when constructing or repairing individual projects by using current design standards or assessing specific natural disaster risks. For example, according to officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a building at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge in Texas was able to sustain multiple hurricanes because it was rebuilt to exceed design standards. Project at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge that Elevated Concrete Piers and Improved the Roof Design to Address Hurricane Risks GAO found that federal government-wide guidance and requirements on asset management direct agencies to address risks such as climate change but do not explicitly direct them to incorporate natural disaster resilience into asset management decisions. In particular, a January 2021 executive order requires agencies to develop a climate action plan describing their vulnerabilities. However, neither this order nor Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) guidance require agencies to use the information collected to make investment decisions. Accordingly, agencies with high exposure to future natural disasters may not proactively incorporate resilience into decisions when prioritizing investments across their portfolios. According to the International Organization for Standardization's standard on climate change and GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework, organizations should assess how they might be affected by climate change, including natural disasters, and apply that information to decision-making. Using information gathered from tools, such as vulnerability assessments, can help agencies determine if an investment in assets to enhance resilience could provide the most value to the agencies in meeting their missions when compared to other potential investments. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government spends billions of dollars each year to manage real property assets, such as buildings, levees, and roads. The rising frequency and severity of natural disasters expose these assets to damage and the government to fiscal liabilities. In 2020, the United States experienced 22 separate billion-dollar natural disasters. As the owner of real property assets, federal agencies can enhance the natural disaster resilience of real property through asset management. This can include actions to prepare for disasters. GAO was asked to determine how agencies prevent or reduce damage to real property caused by natural disasters. This report addresses (1) how selected agencies have incorporated natural disaster resilience into their assets and (2) the extent to which government-wide guidance directs agencies to incorporate natural disaster resilience into asset management. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed key characteristics and principles for asset management and natural disaster resilience from GAO's prior work; reviewed agency documents; interviewed officials from four selected agencies that owned a large number of assets (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, General Services Administration, National Park Service, and FWS); and reviewed OMB guidance.
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    A New Jersey chiropractor pleaded guilty today to a felony charge relating to the distribution of steroid-like drugs in purported dietary supplements.
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