03.17.15

Peters Questions Social Security Officials on Errors in Death Master File

Peters Highlights Michigan Marine Mistakenly Declared Dead by Federal Government

 

WASHINGTON, DC – During a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing this week, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) pressed for the need to take action on recent reports highlighting improper payments made to the deceased by the federal government and errors in the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s Death Master File. In the hearing, Senator Peters highlighted the story of a Metro Detroit Marine Corps veteran who was twice wrongly declared deceased by the federal government. As a result, he lost his Veterans Affairs benefits, the Treasury Department closed his bank account, and his credit score was ruined as he was trying to buy a house.

“It is completely unacceptable that billions in taxpayer dollars is being subject to waste because of errors in the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, and that living Americans are being told they are dead because of a computing error at a government agency,” said Senator Peters. “It can take months to fix the mistake of being improperly reported as dead, not to mention the agony, frustration, red tape, and very serious consequences that comes with that mistake.”

 

For broadcast quality audio of Senator Peters’ opening statement, please click here.

For MP4 broadcast quality video:

HD Version – https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdmc-media.senate.gov/Peters/031715_PETERS_11_WEB_HD.mp4

SD Version – https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdmc-media.senate.gov/Peters/031715_PETERS_11_WEB_SD.mp4

Pathfire Slug:

HD Version - http://democrats.senate.gov/pdfs/tv/pathfire/peters.pdf

 

Senator Peters questioned Sean Brune, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management at the SSA, on how over 9,000 individuals annually across the country are wrongly listed on the Death Master File, how long it takes for individuals to be removed from the File, and what proactive measures the SSA takes to notify commercial vendors, banks and financial institutions of any changes. Senator Peters additionally questioned Patrick O’Carroll, Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, on why there are over 6.5 million social security numberholders who are 112 years old or older, despite not having used Medicare benefits in over three years and no longer receiving Social Security checks.

According to recent reports, $124.7 billion in improper payments were made by the federal government in 2014, an increase of more than $19 billion. The improper payment rate had been steadily decreasing over the last 5 years, but rose this year 4.03% from 3.54% in 2013. Errors in the SSA’s Death Master File cause improper payments at other agencies, as well as cause harm to innocent private citizens who are mistakenly listed as deceased.

“Michiganders deserve better than to have their bank accounts abruptly closed on any given day simply because the federal government wrongly declares them deceased,” added Senator Peters. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to address this problem in a comprehensive and bipartisan way.”

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