Tuesday, June 30, the Senate passed the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, which Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced in May 2019. The bill would save billions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous government payments to people who are deceased.
Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the U.S. Treasury sent more than 1 million coronavirus stimulus payments—worth approximately $1.4 billion—to dead people.
“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 pass the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, and I’m thankful for Sen. Carper’s leadership in helping our bill cross the finish line. I’m also grateful for the work Finance Committee Chairman Grassley did to save billions in taxpayer money from flowing to ghosts. Americans need those resources to save and improve lives, and I hope the House quickly sends this bipartisan solution to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.
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.
The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act has several key provisions, including:
- 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 bill would allow all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete record of death data in order to promote public safety and accuracy in distributing benefits.
- Requiring agencies to use death data to curb improper payments. The legislation would require federal agencies to use this death data in order to curb improper payments and reduce waste and fraud that occur when agencies send taxpayer money to people who are no longer living.
- 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, as a 2015 Inspector General Report identified 6.5 million people who were listed as living despite the fact that they were all recorded as being more than 112 years old.