Detroit Free Press: Federal government pays millions to the dead every year. Sen. Peters is trying to end that.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is backing legislation that could help stop millions of dollars in federal payments to the dead.
Every year, said Peters, millions of dollars in federal benefits continue to get sent out in the names of the deceased because the most accurate records regarding deaths — the list kept by the Social Security Administration — isn't shared among federal agencies.
The legislation Peters is cosponsoring would:
- Allow all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the data;
- Require federal agencies to use the data to stop improper payments
- Establish procedures to make sure more accurate data is maintained.
That last step is crucial, given that even some of the Social Security Administration's data is out-of-date. In 2015, an Inspector General's report found that the agency listed as active some 6.5 million Social Security numbers belonging to people at least 112 years old — despite the fact that only a few dozen people were believed to have reached that age worldwide.
While it wasn't known exactly how much goes out each year based on faulty death records, the General Accountability Office in the past has said that those payments make up at least a portion of a much larger number. In 2017, the GAO said there were as much as $141 billion in improper payments overall.
According to the sponsors of the bill in the House and Senate, more than $600 million in improper payments were made from 2006 to 2010 to federal retirees who had already died, and from 1999 to 2005 more than $1 billion in farm payments went to farmers who were dead, many of them for years. Millions more in drug reimbursements went out on behalf of beneficiaries who were already dead.
“Every year, millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted simply because federal agencies do not have the most up-to-date information needed to prevent these improper payments from happening,” said Peters, who introduced similar legislation in the last Congress. “Congress is responsible for ensuring that taxpayer resources are used efficiently."
The Senate legislation is being sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and John Kennedy, R-La., In the House, the main sponsors are Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.
By: Todd Spangler
Source: Detroit Free Press
Next Article Previous Article