Federal Agencies Are Making Improper Payments To Deceased People - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Federal Agencies Are Making Improper Payments To Deceased People

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WMDT 47 News - A recent report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals a number of errors in the Social Security Administration's database of the deceased --mistakes that result in federal agencies continuing to pay individuals benefits to those who are in fact dead, and sometimes, for many years.

"It should be used for education, police and fire and ems here, instead of towards somebody who's been passed away for years," Wayne Barrall of Seaford, Del. said.

"Perhaps even worse than that, some agencies may even suspend the benefits of living individuals as a result of an erroneous death report," U.S. GAO Director Daniel Bertoni said.

The SSA maintains a database of more than 98 million reports of death. It gets this information from a number of sources including family members, funeral homes, post offices and financial institutions. It sells this data to several benefit paying agencies. But according to the report, it doesn't always check to see that this information is actually accurate.

"It could lead to people falsifying people. I think identity theft could be a problem," Danielle Brown of Salisbury, Md. said.

THE GAO is also concerned that federal agencies are making these improper payments because they don't have full access to the complete database.

"We are concerned that the SSA's guidelines for determining which federal agencies can have access to the full compilation of data and what they can expect to pay for this data were not always transparent or consistently applied," Bertoni said.

It's a major oversight the GAO, politicians and tax-paying citizens are urging the administration to fix.

In a statement released to WMDT, Senator Tom Carper, D- Del., addressed the issue:

"The type of errors identified in the report cost taxpayers millions of dollars in improper payments each year. The good news is that these problems easily can be fixed. Legislation Dr. Coburn and I introduced earlier this year with a bipartisan group of senators would help preventing payments made in error to deceased individuals. I hope the Social Security Administration will take the findings in this report to heart and work to prevent improper payments to dead people in the future."

The Social Security Administration has agreed that it needs to do more to enhance the accuracy of its death data. We're told it's moving forward on a major re-engineering effort for the whole death reporting process. The administration does not believe however, that it needs to provide additional guidance in terms of which agencies can gain full access to the database. The Government Accountability Office says it's still working with the SSA to understand what more can be done.

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