WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) advanced the bipartisan Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. The bill, introduced by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) would help save millions of 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.
In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored 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). Bipartisan companion legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).
“Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be wasted on paying government benefits to dead people. We know the dead people aren’t cashing those checks. Their relatives are,” said Sen. Kennedy. “It’s just throwing hard-earned taxpayer money into the pockets of con artists. We can easily do something about that.”
“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. 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.”
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.