How To Cut Federal Spending? Lawmakers Say Stop Paying Dead People

social security
AP/Bradly C. Bower

The Inspector General at the Office of Personnel Management discovered $601 million dollars that were paid to federal retirees in 2011, even though the retirees actually had died during one of the prior five years.

“Every day, we have hard choices to make on how to spend limited taxpayer dollars. Not spending them on Social Security payments for people who have passed away is an easy choice,” said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI).

More recently, a government hearing last month exposed that 6.5 million individuals with active social security numbers are older than 112-years-old.

A “60 Minutes investigation” uncovered identity theft due to the erroneous federal record keeping.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) said, “It’s unacceptable that the federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in improper payments to deceased people.”

A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act.

Officials say the Social Security Administration holds the official federal database listing deceased individuals, but that other agencies are not updated frequently and that most inspector generals with other government agencies lack access to the list, which leads to a number of federal agencies issuing erroneous payments to dead people.

The Act would give all appropriate federal agencies the right to access a complete and current list of deceased individuals.

“Social Security’s death records are in disarray. They show millions of people over 112 years of age as alive when they’re actually dead. They mistakenly mark tens of thousands of living people each year as dead when they are alive,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “By cleaning up Social Securitys Death Master File and sharing it with other federal agencies, we can protect taxpayers and ensure their money isn’t being wasted fraudulently on the deceased.”


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