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article imageU.S. government paid out $600 million to dead people

By Kim I. Hartman     Sep 30, 2011 in World
Washington - The Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management reports the federal government has paid out more then $600 million in retirement and disability benefits to deceased federal workers and the problem doesn't appear correctable in the near future.
The report [pdf] released by the OPM cites instances of improper payments which include one case in which "the son of a federal beneficiary continued to receive payments after his father's death in 1971 that totaled over $515,000." The gross error was not discovered until the son died in 2008, reports the Associated Press.
The payments, originating from from the Federal Government’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF), have averaged $120 million annually over the last five years, according to the report. The OPM blames families for their failure to report the death of annuitant's to the federal government.
The government admits its been aware of the problem since 2005 but have been unable to develop a system that can track which beneficiaries have died and which are still alive.
Programs instituted by the OPM to curb the improper payments included a 'Death Master File Match,' which matches CSRDF records with Social Security records, an 'Over 90 Project,' that sought to contact beneficiaries who had reached the age of 90 to determine if they were still living, 'Check Reclamation Systems,' and improving the timeliness of death reporting through mailings and phone calls to beneficiaries.
In a statement from John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, Berry said "the agency has already adopted 10 of the inspector general's 14 recommendations for stopping the improper payments."
Berry said he is committed to ending the waste of taxpayer's monies. He stated, "action has been taken on all $600 million in improper payments, including $113 million currently in collection."
"Improper payments in this program are less than two-tenths of one percent. We encourage anyone who is receiving improper payments to contact us immediately. Taking payment for or providing false information regarding a deceased annuitant is a felony, and will be prosecuted where appropriate."
The report comes on the heels of last years revelation that stimulus payments of $250 were made to 89,000 people who were either deceased or in prison. Those payments totaled over 22 million, according to a report [pdf] by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Federal Programs To Die For, which documented the payment of federal dollars to deceased recipients. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which authorized the stimulus payments, did not give the Social Security Administration or the Treasury Department authority to reclaim erroneous payments made through electronic transfer, said Coburn's report.
"These findings are yet another example of congressional stupidity and a lack of accountability," said Coburn (R-Okla.), whose watchdog organization monitors government spending and waste.
Along with the improper payments by the CSRDF and the government's stimulus payments, Coburn's report documented payments made by the Department of Health and Human Services, who paid $3.9 in heating and cooling costs for 11,000 dead people, payments of $1.1 billion in farm subsidies sent to deceased farmers, housing subsidies sent to families with at least one deceased person, and medicare and medicaid payments made for deceased persons, some for services and prescriptions written by deceased doctors.
Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland, of the Office of Personnel Management, said “It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money."
More about Us government, office of personnel management, payments to dead people, Disability benefits, Social security recipients
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