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Peters, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Curb Improper Federal Payments to the Deceased

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters today announced that he has joined his colleagues in introducing the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, bipartisan legislation that would help save millions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

“Congress is responsible for ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively, yet billions of dollars are wasted every year in improper payments in part because agencies do not have access to accurate, up-to-date information on deceased individuals,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will ensure agencies have the information they need to stop fraud or mistakes, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this legislation forward and prevent waste and abuse of tax dollars in the future.”

According to a 2015 SSA inspector general report, there are at least 6.5 million active Social Security numbers for individuals over 112 years old.

Key provisions in the bill include: 

  • Allowing Federal Agencies Access to the Complete Death Database. Under current law, only federal agencies that directly manage programs making beneficiary payments have access to complete death data.  The Act allows all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete death data for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health;
  • Requiring Use of Death Data to Curb Improper Payments. The Act would require that federal agencies make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments;
  • Improving the Death Data. The legislation would establish procedures to ensure more accurate death data.  For example, the bill requires the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals. 

Peters introduced the legislation with U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Mark Warner (D-VA). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.