The Social Security retirement topic burning up the Internet today is a "Request for Quote" on the FedBizOpps.gov website, where the U.S. government posts opportunities for the private industry to do business with it.
The fuss is about a July request from the Social Security Administration to purchase 174,000 ".357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point pistol ammunition."
That's a lot of bullets -- and it has every conspiracy theorist with a keyboard speculating that Social Security offices are gearing up to gun down senior citizens who storm the doors after Social Security puts them on hold for 30 minutes.
The Sturm und Drang has been so emotional that the administration felt compelled to post a defense on its new consumer blog, headlined "Social Security's OIG responds to concerns over ammunition procurement."
In government speak, OIG stands for Office of the Inspector General. In its initial explanation of the RFQ on Aug. 13, Social Security said:
In 2010, a 66-year-old man with a shotgun entered the Federal Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas and opened fire in the crowded lobby, killing two people and injuring another. His fury was with SSA and the loss of his California state supplement of $317 per month when he moved to Nevada. He had sued the agency and lost.
The post went on to explain the SSA offices were getting a lot of traffic due to increased disability claims, and a corresponding increase in threats against SSA employees. Altogether SSA received 1,033 allegations pertaining to employee safety.
That post just fueled the fire. So, three days later on Aug. 16, Social Security posted:
We have criminal investigators -- aka special agents -- who are responsible for investigating violations of the laws that govern Social Security's programs. Currently, about 230 special agents work in 66 offices across the United States. Just like FBI or NCIS agents, our investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests. Our special agents need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers.
Finally, on Aug. 31, the SSA -- still obviously feeling falsely accused -- posted:
Some comments and media reports suggest a degree of skepticism about the role of an OIG Special Agent, and we thought we'd address that here, as part of this dialogue. Several comments, and even Jay Leno's monologue, mentioned investigating seniors, and the limited danger that might present. The point is well-taken, but off the mark. Only about 15 percent of our investigations involve SSA's retirement programs, while almost 80 percent involve the disability programs. People who defraud these programs come in all ages, and none of them wants to be arrested.