January 02, 2018

Warren Calls for Inspectors General Review of Education Department's Potential Misuse of Social Security Data to Limit Relief for Defrauded Students

The Department May Have Violated its Information Exchange Agreement with the Social Security Administration

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter today requesting the Inspectors General of the Department of Education and Social Security Administration (SSA) determine whether the Department is violating its information exchange agreement with the SSA and misusing Social Security data to limit relief to thousands of defrauded borrowers.

The Department of Education plans to use federal earnings data produced from federal tax records to calculate limited relief for defrauded student borrowers under its Borrower Defense authority. The Department obtained these federal earnings data through an information exchange agreement with the SSA. But the information exchange agreement explicitly and exclusively allows the data to be used only for the Gainful Employment Rule, and makes no mention of using it for Borrower Defense purposes.

E-mails obtained by Senator Warren reveal that SSA staff have serious concerns about the legality of the Department's current plan for use of the data.

"I am troubled by the Department's potential misuse of federal earnings data acquired from SSA through an information exchange agreement in order to determine the amount of loan relief for defrauded students," wrote Senator Warren. "There is no evidence of a new data exchange agreement between the Department and SSA for use in Borrower Defense determinations, nor has there been a revision to the Gainful Employment information exchange agreement."