Ending Payments to the Deceased Easier Said Than Done

The reported also noted that, a few years ago when stimulus payments were going out, 72,000 stimulus payments went to deceased Americans. Amongst ways to improve Social Security’s financial situation and effectiveness, we have often discussed curbing fraud and waste. It is hard to imagine a bigger waste than funds that go to people no longer alive, and a recent watchdog report crunched the numbers of how much and how often the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) pays deceased individuals.

In one case, a son received his deceased’s father’s benefits for 37 years after his father’s passing. The grand total of the payments exceeded a half million dollars. The government did not catch on until the son passed away three years ago in 2008.

The reported also noted that, a few years ago when stimulus payments were going out, 72,000 stimulus payments went to deceased Americans. An investigative agency uncovered the error in 2005, yet the payments continue to go out to deceased people.

It is hard to find anyone opposed to ending these wasteful activities. The 2005 agency wrote, “It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money.” President Obama and Congress have both made ending benefits payments to deceased individuals a priority, but the $64,000 question that remains is how to do this effectively?

The SSA does not have the resources to check up on every single person receiving disability benefits to ensure that they are living and that they continue to suffer from a disability. The SSA maintains a Master Death List that tracks Americans who pass away, but that list itself is riddled with typos and other incorrectly entered data. Cross checking SSA data with tax records and death reports is another method, but that too would miss beneficiaries who fraudulently report that they continue to suffer from a disability.

For now, the SSA largely relies on self-reporting, letting beneficiaries inform the SSA when their work or disability status changes. Cutting down on waste in SSA programs will take some outside-of-the-box thinking, which hopefully does not end up hurting all disability applicants. One thing that is certain, though, is that the current methods are not getting the job done.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys



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