WASHINGTONToday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement calling for a comprehensive review of income verification of Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans following the publication of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Verify Borrowers' Information for Income-Driven Repayment Plans.
"The GAO report released today further proves what I've long said: there is significant risk in the federal student loan portfolio. For years there have been deliberate efforts to make the maze of student aid more complex for students and less accountable to the American taxpayers who underwrite it. Today's report is just the latest proof that many of the policy ideas previously pursued were poorly implemented.
"Misrepresenting income or family size is wrong, and we must have a system in place to ensure that dishonest people do not get away with it. We didn't create that problem, but rest assured we will fix it.
"As the GAO highlights, the lack of accountability built into these programs creates significant risk for taxpayers. That's why the Department has already looked at ways to better verify income and family size for all borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment programs. However, without Congressional action, we are unable to partner with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to independently verify this information. I am again calling on Congress to provide the Department the authority to independently verify income using IRS data.
"If Congress provides the Department with this authority, we could significantly reduce the risk of fraud and improper payments, save taxpayers money, and reduce the burden on borrowers when they annually recertify their income with the Department.
"While access to this IRS data is vital, until Congress passes legislation, we will work to be responsive to the GAO recommendations. The Department is also working to identify and refer cases of suspected fraud to the Department of Justice for prosecution."