Committee Leaders Concerned Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Could be Undermining Video Relay Service for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and FCC Inspector General David Hunt regarding the FCC’s oversight and management of the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund and the Video Relay Service (VRS) program. The TRS Fund, paid for by charges included on Americans’ telephone bills, helps cover the cost of providing functionally equivalent telecommunication services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), full committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations and Health Subcommittees Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), today wrote to ensure that the TRS Fund and VRS program are being run effectively.

“The Committee acknowledges and supports the important role that VRS services have in enhancing the personal and professional lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans. The purpose of our inquiry is not to question the merits of the VRS program, but rather, to find out whether the program, in its current form, is efficient, sustainable and sufficiently safeguarded against the possibility of fraud. In light of concerns voiced by your agency in a June 28, 2010 Notice of Inquiry, that ‘the [VRS] program is fraught with inefficiencies (at best) and opportunities for fraud and abuse (at worst)[,]’ we believe such oversight is warranted,” wrote the leaders.

They continued, “While your agency has claimed that its reforms have saved the VRS program approximately $300 million over the past two years, a question remains as to whether its actions have been completely effective at eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the VRS program. This month’s announcement that the FCC has adopted ‘comprehensive reforms’ constituting a ‘fundamental restructuring’ of the VRS program is welcome news to the Committee. We look forward to the FCC’s timely and effective implementation of these reforms.”

To read the letters to FCC Acting Chairwoman Clyburn and FCC Inspector General Hunt, click here.

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