Office of the Spokesperson
Today, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking and Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Yemen Cathy Westley concluded their visit to Yemen. During the trip, they met with the Governors of Hadhramaut, Mahra, and Shabwa.
The visit highlighted how Yemenis across the country – even those far from the frontlines – are suffering from years of political and economic instability. It provided an opportunity to discuss the needs in these governorates and efforts to strengthen basic services, economic opportunity, and security, which would allow peace to take root. This visit to Yemen also emphasized the continued challenges posed by terrorism and smuggling, which feed instability.
The U.S. delegation stressed its support for an inclusive UN-led peace process that incorporates the views of diverse Yemeni groups, including those from Hadhramaut, Mahra, and Shabwa, as well as women, civil society leaders, and representatives of other traditionally marginalized groups.
The visit to Yemen underscored the importance of the international community continuing to support economic stability and humanitarian relief efforts. Millions of Yemenis have been displaced by the conflict and rely on international assistance to meet basic needs, including food, health care, and water. The United States has provided over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance for Yemen since the conflict began, and strongly urges donors to generously support the people of Yemen at the upcoming High-Level Pledging Event for Yemen co-hosted by the UN, Switzerland, and Sweden on March 16.
- Court Orders Georgia Defendants to Stop Selling Vitamin D Products as Treatments for Covid-19 and Other Diseases
January 8, 2021A federal court entered a permanent injunction barring a Georgia company from selling unapproved vitamin D products touted as treatments for COVID-19, the Department of Justice announced today.
- Indian Health Service: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Federal Facilities’ Decision-Making About the Use of Funds
November 12, 2020The Indian Health Service’s (IHS) oversight of federally operated health care facilities’ decision-making process about the use of funds has been limited and inconsistent. Funds include those from appropriations, as well as payments from federal programs, such as Medicaid and from private insurance, for care provided by IHS to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). While some oversight functions are performed at IHS headquarters, the agency has delegated primary responsibility for the oversight of health care facilities’ decision-making about the use of funds to its area offices. Area office officials said the oversight they provide has generally included (1) reviewing facilities’ scope of services, and (2) reviewing facilities’ proposed expenditures. However, GAO’s review found that this oversight was limited and inconsistent across IHS area offices, in part, due to a lack of consistent agency-wide processes. While IHS officials from all nine area offices GAO interviewed said they reviewed facilities’ scope of services and coordinated with tribes when doing so, none reported systematically reviewing the extent to which their facilities’ services were meeting local health needs, such as by incorporating the results of community health assessments. Such assessments can involve the collection and assessment of data, as well as the input of local community members and leaders to identify and prioritize community needs. These assessments can be used by facilities to assess their resources and identify priorities for facility investment. While IHS has identified such assessments as a priority, the agency does not require federally operated facilities to conduct such assessments or require the area offices to use them as they review facilities’ scope of services. To ensure that facilities are effectively managing their resources, IHS has a process to guide its review of facilities’ proposed construction projects that cost at least $25,000. However, IHS does not have a similar process to guide its oversight of other key proposed expenditures, such as those involving the purchase of major medical equipment, the hiring of providers, or the expansion of services. Specifically, GAO found limitations and inconsistencies with respect to requiring a documented justification for proposed expenditures; documenting the review and approval of decisions; and conducting an impact assessment on patient access, cost, and quality of care. The limitations and inconsistencies that GAO found in IHS’s oversight are driven by the lack of consistent oversight processes across the area offices. Without establishing a systematic oversight process to compare federally operated facilities’ current services to population needs, and to guide the review of facilities’ proposed expenditures, IHS cannot ensure that its facilities are identifying and investing in projects to meet the greatest community needs, and therefore that federal resources are being maximized to best serve the AI/AN population. IHS, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, provides care to AI/AN populations through a system of federally operated and tribally operated health care facilities. AI/AN have experienced long standing problems accessing needed health care services. GAO has previously reported that IHS has not been able to pay for all eligible health care services; however, the resources available to federally operated facilities have recently grown. This report assesses IHS oversight of federal health care facilities’ decision-making about the use of funds. GAO reviewed IHS policies and documents; and interviewed IHS officials from headquarters, nine area offices, and three federally operated facilities (two hospitals and one health clinic). GAO recommends that IHS develop processes to guide area offices in (1) systematically assessing how federally operated facilities will effectively meet the needs of their patient populations, and (2) reviewing federal facilities’ spending proposals. HHS concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Justice Department Settles with Insurance Agency to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
January 24, 2022The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with James A. Scott & Son Inc., an insurance agency doing business as Scott Insurance headquartered in Lynchburg, Virginia.
- Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Commends the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for New Website Enhancing Access to Justice
August 21, 2020Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams issued the following statement today on the efforts by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to enhance public and litigant access to electronic court records. This year, as part of its access to justice efforts, the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice partnered with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to improve transparency regarding fee exemptions for access to court records in the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. As part of that partnership, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced an enhanced PACER website that makes it easier for indigent individuals, as well as pro bono attorneys, academic researchers, and non-profit organizations, to understand how they may access court records for free.
- First Anniversary of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations
February 15, 2022
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets Before Their Meeting
February 16, 2022
- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo
December 13, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Justice Department Obtains Settlement from Kentucky Landlord and Rental Manager to Resolve Claims of Sexual Harassment Against Female Tenants
August 25, 2021The Justice Department today announced it has reached an agreement with defendants Gus and Penny Crank to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that Gus Crank sexually harassed female tenants while managing a Dayton, Kentucky, rental property owned by his wife, Penny Crank.
- 15 Named In $26 Million International Trade Fraud Scheme
December 15, 2020A federal grand jury in Houston, Texas, has returned a criminal indictment against eight individuals, while a related civil complaint has charged 14 individuals and one company relating to international trade fraud violations stemming from a decade-long scheme involving tires from China.
- Overseas Schools Advisory Council Meeting – Thursday, June 17, 2021
June 10, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Linus Kaikai of Citizen TV
November 18, 2021
- North Carolina Return Preparer Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme
October 15, 2020A Rocky Mount, North Carolina, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
- Medicare Part B: Payments and Use for Selected New, High-Cost Drugs
March 1, 2021Hospital outpatient departments perform a wide range of procedures, including diagnostic and surgical procedures, which may use drugs that Medicare considers to function as supplies. If the drug is new, and its cost is high relative to Medicare’s payment for the procedure, then hospitals can receive a separate “pass-through” payment for the drug in addition to Medicare’s payment for the procedure. These pass-through payments are in effect for 2 to 3 years. When the pass-through payments expire, Medicare no longer pays separately for the drug, and payment for the drug is “packaged” with the payment for the related procedure. The payment rate for the procedure does not vary by whether or not the drug is used. Medicare intends this payment rate to be an incentive for hospitals to furnish services efficiently, such as using the most cost-efficient items that meet the patient’s needs. Examples of Types of Drugs that Medicare Considers to Function as Supplies GAO’s analysis of Medicare data showed that higher payments were associated with six of seven selected drugs when they were eligible for pass-through payments versus when their payments were packaged. For example, one drug used in cataract removal procedures was eligible for pass-through payments in 2017. That year, Medicare paid $1,824 for the procedure and $463 for the drug pass-through payment—a total payment of $2,287. If a hospital performed the same cataract removal procedure when the drug was packaged the following year, there was no longer a separate payment for the drug. Instead, Medicare paid $1,921 for the procedure whether or not the hospital used the drug. Of the seven selected drugs, GAO also reviewed differences in use for four of them that did not have limitations on Medicare coverage during the time frame of GAO’s analysis, such as coverage that was limited to certain clinical trials. GAO found that hospitals’ use of three of the four drugs was lower when payments for the drugs were packaged. This was consistent with the financial incentives created by the payment system. In particular, given the lower total payment for the drug and procedure when the drug is packaged, hospitals may have a greater incentive to use a lower-cost alternative for the procedure. Hospitals’ use of a fourth drug increased regardless of payment status. The financial incentives for that drug appeared minimal because the total payment for it and its related procedure was about the same when it was eligible for pass-through payments and when packaged. Other factors that can affect use of the drugs include the use of the drugs for certain populations and whether hospitals put the drugs on their formularies, which guide, in part, whether the drug is used at that hospital. The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed a draft of this report and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. Medicare makes “pass-through” payments under Medicare Part B when hospital outpatient departments use certain new, high-cost drugs. These temporary payments are in addition to Medicare’s payments for the procedures using the drugs. They may help make the new drugs accessible for beneficiaries and also allow Medicare to collect information on the drugs’ use and costs. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 included a provision for GAO to review the effect of Medicare’s policy for packaging high-cost drugs after their pass-through payments have expired. This report describes (1) the payments associated with selected high-cost drugs when eligible for pass-through payments versus when packaged, and (2) hospitals’ use of those drugs when eligible for pass-through payments versus when packaged. GAO reviewed federal regulations on pass-through payments and Medicare payment files for all seven drugs whose pass-through payments expired in 2017 or 2018 and that were subsequently packaged. All of these drugs met Medicare’s definition for having a high cost relative to Medicare’s payment rate for the procedure using the drug. GAO also reviewed Medicare claims data on the use of the drugs for 2017 through 2019 (the most recent available). To supplement this information, GAO also interviewed Medicare officials, as well officials from 11 organizations representing hospitals, physicians, and drug manufacturers, about payment rates, use, reporting, and clinical context for the drugs. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLO News
September 8, 2021
- Former Government Contractor Executives Indicted for Unlawful Campaign Contributions
February 10, 2022Three Hawaii-based executives of a government contractor were indicted today in the District of Columbia for allegedly making unlawful campaign contributions to a candidate for Congress and a political action committee.
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Soreide Before Their Meeting
September 3, 2021
- COVID-19: DOD Has Focused on Strategy and Oversight to Protect Military Servicemember Health
June 4, 2021What GAO Found Since January 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD) has developed a strategy to protect the health of military servicemembers from COVID-19, with a goal of minimizing risks while continuing operations. The strategy tailors protection measures to local conditions and risks to health and force readiness. GAO found that DOD’s strategy applies several key considerations. DOD Application of Key Considerations to Protect Servicemembers from COVID-19 DOD officials oversee the implementation of the department’s COVID-19 health protection strategy for servicemembers through: Sustained leadership attention. In January 2020, the Secretary of Defense initiated COVID-19 planning and established a senior task force to oversee the response. Combatant command and installation officials continuously evaluate regional and local implementation and perform compliance checks. Notwithstanding these efforts, DOD officials stated that they expect some limited incidents of personnel not following protocols. Data monitoring. Senior leaders and local commanders assess data on cases, community spread, and testing, among other metrics, to inform strategy implementation and assess its effectiveness. Lessons learned analyses. While these analyses are ongoing as the pandemic continues, DOD has implemented mitigations to address some challenges identified, such as a new system to collect more timely and specific COVID-19 case data. DOD has research and development projects underway to advance COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics and improve detection methods. DOD’s investments include many projects that have specific applications for servicemembers, such as pre- and postexposure prophylactic treatments to prevent the onset of the disease. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic poses risks to the health of U.S. servicemembers. Protecting forces from COVID-19 is therefore essential to DOD’s ability to defend the United States, maintain warfighting readiness, and support the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. To help facilitate the COVID-19 pandemic response, Congress appropriated about $10.5 billion to DOD through the CARES Act. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight related to the pandemic. GAO was also asked to examine the military health system response to COVID-19. This report examines, in regard to COVID-19, DOD’s (1) strategy for protecting military servicemember health, (2) oversight of its strategy, and (3) research and development projects for vaccines, therapeutics, and testing. GAO reviewed guidance and plans for health protection and pandemic response that comprise DOD’s strategy, and evaluated alignment of the strategy with key considerations from prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness. To identify oversight efforts, GAO reviewed DOD briefings on the progress of health protection measures, and analyzed 2020 DOD data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and testing. GAO also interviewed DOD leaders, officials from the military department medical organizations, combatant commands, and four military medical treatment facilities selected on the basis of military department and location. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Military Pay: Army National Guard Personnel Mobilized to Active Duty Experienced Significant Pay Problems
August 31, 2021In light of the recent mobilizations associated with the war on terrorism and homeland security, GAO was asked to determine if controls used to pay mobilized Army Guard personnel provided assurance that such pays were accurate and timely. GAO’s audit used a case study approach to focus on controls over three key areas: processes, people (human capital), and systems.The existing processes and controls used to provide pay and allowances to mobilized Army Guard personnel are so cumbersome and complex that neither DOD nor, more importantly, the mobilized Army Guard soldiers could be reasonably assured of timely and accurate payroll payments. Weaknesses in these processes and controls resulted in over- and underpayments and late active duty payments and, in some cases, largely erroneous debt assessments to mobilized Army Guard personnel. The end result of these pay problems is to severely constrain DOD’s ability to provide active duty pay to these personnel, many of whom were risking their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, these pay problems have had a profound financial impact on individual soldiers and their families. For example, many soldiers and their families were required to spend considerable time, sometimes while the soldiers were deployed in remote, combat environments overseas, seeking corrections to active duty pays and allowances. The pay process, involving potentially hundreds of DOD, Army, and Army Guard organizations and thousands of personnel, was not well understood or consistently applied with respect to determining (1) the actions required to make timely, accurate pays to mobilized soldiers, and (2) the organization responsible for taking the required actions. With respect to human capital, we found weaknesses including (1) insufficient resources allocated to pay processing, (2) inadequate training related to existing policies and procedures, and (3) poor customer service. Several systems issues were also a significant factor impeding accurate and timely payroll payments to mobilized Army Guard soldiers, including (1) non-integrated systems, (2) limitations in system processing capabilities, and (3) ineffective system edits.
- On the Confirmation of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
February 23, 2021
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Olena Removska of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
May 6, 2021