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What is a System for Award Management (SAM) Background Check?

sam database check

As a healthcare employer or federal contractor, you should include a System for Awards Management (SAM) check in your employment background screening process for all applicants, subcontractors, and others involved in your business operations.

Hiring someone who appears on the SAM exclusion list could expose you to stiff penalties and fines and could potentially render you ineligible to participate in Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal healthcare programs and contracts.

Based on our extensive experience conducting SAM background checks for employers throughout the U.S., we’ve written this guide for employers as a resource to understand these types of searches.

What is the System for Award Management (SAM)?

The System for Award Management (SAM) is a government platform employers use to:

  • Register with the government to secure federal contracts
  • Renew or update their registration
  • Find out about available grants and learn how to acquire them
  • Discover procurement and acquisition information
  • Search for excluded individuals and entities

SAM is operated by the General Services Administration (GSA) and is a free tool used by federal agencies, organizations, and businesses and was created in 2012 by consolidating several federal procurement and award systems into a single, comprehensive system.

How is the System for Award Management (SAM) Used for Hiring Purposes?

SAM’s exclusion list is among its most important features for employers. SAM includes both a list of approved entities and contractors and a list of excluded entities and contractors.

Those who appear on the exclusions list are prohibited from contracting with the federal government and can’t perform work on any federal contract held by another company.

Under 48 CFR § 9.406-2 and 48 CFR § 9.407-2 a contractor can be debarred for any of the following reasons:

  • Conviction or civil judgment for fraud involved with obtaining or attempting to obtain a public contract or subcontract
  • Antitrust statute violations
  • Convictions for fraud, theft, bribery, forgery, embezzlement, violations of federal criminal tax laws, destruction of records, falsifications of records, receipt of stolen property, tax evasion, or making false statements
  • Affixing a ‘Made in America’ label to an item that was made in a different country
  • Committing any other offense that indicates a lack of honesty or integrity
  • Violating the clauses of the Drug-Free Workplace Act
  • Hiring multiple contractors with criminal drug convictions indicating the contractor has failed to comply with the federal Drug-Free Workplaces Act
  • Engaging in unfair trade practices in violation of the Defense Production Act
  • Having a federal tax delinquency of $10,000 or more per 48 CFR § 9.104-5(a)(2)
  • Failing to disclose criminal violations
  • Failing to disclose violations of the False Claims Act
  • Failing to disclose substantial overpayments on a federal contract

Performing a SAM background check helps federal contractors, federal subcontractors, and healthcare organizations ensure compliance while protecting the safety of the public and patients.

What Laws Govern SAM Background Checks?

Hiring an Excluded Individual

Under 42 CFR § 1003.102(a)(2), healthcare employers that contract with the federal government are prohibited from hiring or continuing to employ someone who has been excluded.

As a healthcare employer, hiring or continuing to employ someone who has been excluded can lead to the following potential penalties:

  • Civil monetary penalties of $10,000 for each service provided by an excluded individual or vendor
  • Repayment of amounts billed for services provided by the excluded party
  • Denial of payments for services provided in violation of the exclusion laws
  • Exclusion from participating in federal contracts, including Medicare or Medicaid, for entities that violated the prohibition

Other federal and state laws apply to employment background checks in general but do not specifically apply to SAM checks.

How do I Conduct a SAM Exclusion Search?

There are two main ways employers conduct SAM exclusion searches, including manually searching for exclusions or partnering with a reliable third-party background provider.

Let’s review each method.

1. Manually Search the SAM Database

Employers can search the SAM database by clicking the search button in the page header on They can then select “entity” under the domain and exclusions.

The employer can then enter the search keyword for the individual being searched by typing in their name and Social Security number.

There is also an advanced search feature that involves additional steps and the application of filters.

The SAM platform is complex and can be difficult for employers to check. It also won’t provide other important information that should be considered when making a hiring decision.

Trying to take a do-it-yourself approach to a SAM background check could leave you with incomplete information or data that doesn’t comply with other employment background check laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

2. Partner With a Reliable Third-Party Background Check Provider

The best way to complete SAM background checks is to partner with a reliable third-party background check provider like iprospectcheck.

We can quickly check the SAM exclusions list and other relevant sanctions databases.

In addition, we can perform other types of relevant searches to provide a comprehensive picture of your applicant’s background in a way that fully complies with the FRCA and other employment laws.

What Other Types of Employment Background Searches Should Be Performed?

Healthcare employers should perform other healthcare sanctions checks on their applicants and employees beyond a SAM exclusions list search.

The following are other types of searches that might be important:

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
  • Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) search
  • State debarment and exclusion lists
  • FACIS check
  • Criminal background search
  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • Professional license verification
  • Sex offender registry search
  • Identity Verification
  • Pre-employment drug screen

Here’s what some of these searches might show.


The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services maintains the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE).

An OIG search looks at whether an individual has been excluded from participating in Medicaid or Medicare programs.

You will see the following information if an applicant appears on the LEIE:

  • Sanction was issued
  • Date of the sanction
  • Whether the sanction is still active
  • Violation type if available

OFAC Check

An OFAC check reveals if an individual has been listed by the Office of Foreign Asset Control on a watchlist that prevents them from engaging in business.

This type of search reveals whether an individual has engaged in activities such as drug trafficking or terrorism and also those from embargoed countries.

Fraud Abuse Control Information System (FACIS) Check

A FACIS check is a system comprised of multiple databases with varying levels of information.

The databases are updated regularly to ensure that your applicants and employees have not engaged in fraud against the government or patient abuse.

FACIS checks are available in the following three levels:

  • FACIS level 1 – Searches databases from Tricare, Medicare OPT-Out, FDA, OFAC-SDN, DEA, OIG, and state Medicaid sanctions lists
  • FACIS level 2 – Searches everything included in level one plus more state-specific lists
  • FACIS level 3 – Searches everything included in the other levels plus additional data from sanctioning agencies and boards in all states and U.S. territories

Criminal Background Search

A criminal background check for employment reveals whether an applicant has a pending criminal charge or a conviction.

When an applicant has a pending criminal case or a conviction, a criminal background check reveals the following information:

  • Date of the offense
  • Offense type
  • Level of the offense (misdemeanor/felony)
  • Disposition (if available)
  • Date of disposition (if available)
  • Sentence (if available)

Some states have expungement laws that allow people to petition for the expungement of certain criminal records.

Expunged records can’t be reported.

Employment Verification

Employment verification confirms the following information about each of an applicant’s former jobs:

  • Name and contact information of each employer
  • Employment dates with each employer
  • Job titles with each employer

This type of search can help you to check that your applicant has been honest on their resume or application and has the desired experience for the position.

Education Verification

Education verification discloses the following information about an applicant’s educational history:

  • Name and address of each educational institution attended
  • Dates of attendance at each school or university
  • Whether any degrees, certificates, or diplomas were earned

This type of search can help you confirm your applicant is trustworthy and has attained the necessary education for the position.

Professional License Verification

Professional license verification reports the following information about an applicant’s license or certification:

  • License/certification type
  • Issuance date
  • Expiration date
  • License/certification status/validity
  • Sanctions or discipline imposed

This type of search helps to ensure your applicant has the required qualifications to perform the job.

Sex Offender Registry Search

If an applicant is registered as a sex offender, a sex offender registry search reveals the following information:

  • Names and aliases used
  • Registration date
  • Address where registered
  • Underlying offense requiring registration
  • Physical descriptors

Pre-Employment Drug Screen

Most healthcare employers require pre-employment drug screens to determine if an applicant has recently used any of the following substances:

  • THC/marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates (heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines/methamphetamines

Job offers are often contingent on passing a pre-employment drug screen. If an applicant fails, the offer might be withdrawn.


1. What is the difference between a SAM and EPLS background check?

The Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) was a separate list that included entities and individuals who had been suspended or excluded from engaging in business with the federal government.

In 2012, the GSA announced that it was starting the SAM system and migrated the data from the EPLS into SAM.

SAM is much more comprehensive than the former EPLS.

2. Why would someone be on the SAM exclusion list?

Someone might appear on the SAM exclusion list for any of the following reasons:

  • Convictions for fraud, bribery, extortion, embezzlement, and others
  • Violations indicating a lack of business integrity and honesty
  • Violations of the Drug-Free Workplace Act
  • Failing to disclose violations
  • Failing to report criminal convictions
  • Failing to report overpayments

People can also be voluntarily excluded through a settlement with a participating federal agency.

3. What are the benefits of registering with SAM?

Registering with SAM offers the following benefits:

  • Allows your company to seek and procure federal contracts
  • Provides access to federal contract opportunities
  • Allows your business to self-certify
  • Serves as a marketing tool for your business

Turn to iprospectcheck for Fast, Compliant SAM Background Checks

A SAM background check is only one of the numerous types of employment background screens that should be completed by healthcare employers and other companies that contract with the federal government.

This type of search helps to identify individuals and vendors that have been excluded from federal contracts and that should be avoided by employers.

At iprospectcheck, we perform SAM checks and many other types of employment background screens.

To learn more about the services we provide and to get a free quote, contact us today: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.