WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) reintroduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act this week. This bipartisan legislation will help save millions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died. However, 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. In addition, most Inspectors General lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.
Senators Kennedy and Carper were joined by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in introducing the legislation. Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).
“It’s pretty simple: We need to stop paying dead people. Taxpayer dollars are precious. They’re too precious to be lost to fraud,” said Senator Kennedy. “A Louisiana man was just indicted for neglecting to tell Social Security that his sister died. He pocketed more than $30,000 in her disability benefits before he was caught. Unfortunately, this type of fraud happens more than you’d think. Our bill will give the federal government added tools to ensure that dead people aren’t receiving taxpayer-funded benefits.”
“As government officials, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Carper. “That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. But there is still work to be done because we know that year after year, the federal government continues to mismanage billions of dollars through improper payments. Today, I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy to re-introduce the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act which would provide federal agencies with the most up-to-date data they need to prevent improper payments to deceased people. The money saved by these efforts can be put to good use, like funding health care programs or investing in our decades-old infrastructure. With a little hard work and bipartisanship, we can take the common sense steps necessary to reduce improper payments and put these funds to better use for the American people.”
“As Representatives, we owe it to the American people to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Cutting checks to deceased people is one of the most glaring examples of government waste and that’s why it’s crucial our federal agencies have access to the most up-to-date information available to prevent this from occurring in the future. I’m proud to work across the aisle to introduce this common-sense solution to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars.”
“The federal government makes billions of dollars in improper payments each year, including Social Security payments to deceased beneficiaries. We must give the Social Security Administration and other agencies more tools to ensure taxpayers aren’t sending checks to dead people,” Congressman Gianforte said. “This bipartisan bill will cut unnecessary red tape in the federal bureaucracy to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse as well as protect taxpayer money.”
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. This is in response to a 2015 Inspector General Report that identified 6.5 million individuals currently listed as being older than 112 years of age as still alive.
Organizations that supported the bill in 2018 included American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Coalition to Reduce Spending, FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, Project on Government Oversight, 60 Plus Association, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance.