Press releases

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate will vote to pass the major provisions of Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act as part of the government spending bill. The bill, introduced by Kennedy and Carper in 2019, would help save millions of federal 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, the federal government’s centralized improper payments screening initiative, the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay program, lacks access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

“Every so often, Washington actually saves taxpayer dollars instead of watching that money circle the bureaucratic drain. Today, the Senate made the commonsense move to include the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act as part of the government funding bill. Now we can make sure taxpayer dollars work on behalf of hardworking Americans instead of fraudsters who take advantage of flaws in the system. I’m thankful for Sen. Carper’s leadership in helping save billions in taxpayer money from flowing to ghosts,” said Kennedy.

“This has been a long, hard fight for many years, but this is good news for American taxpayers. As government officials, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. 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. The money saved by curbing improper payments to the deceased can be used to fund health care programs or invest 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. I want to thank my wingman, Senator Kennedy, for his leadership on this issue,” said Carper. 

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.).

Key provisions in the bill include:

Providing Do Not Pay with 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. This legislation provides the federal government’s centralized improper payments screening service, Do Not Pay, with access to the complete death data to help agencies identify and prevent improper payments.

Improves management of death data. The legislation safeguards the Social Security Trust Funds by allowing the SSA to recoup the costs of managing this data. The legislation allows for the SSA to correct errors in the death data and ensures states can maintain their death registration systems.

Improving Death Data Sharing in the Future. The legislation requires the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct an independent study of the sources and access to state-owned death data for use by federal agencies for program administration and payment integrity and to report on options for future distribution of death data government-wide.