WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined his colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation that would save millions of taxpayer dollars by preventing improper or fraudulent payments to deceased individuals. The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most thorough federal database of individuals who are reported to have died, but only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list. Most federal agencies rely on a reduced, incomplete and less up-to-date version of reported deaths, and many Inspectors General lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.
“Every year millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted simply because federal agencies do not have the most up-to-date information needed to prevent these improper payments from happening,” said Senator Peters. “Congress is responsible for ensuring that taxpayer resources are used efficiently, and providing agencies with timely and accurate information on reported deaths will help prevent fraud and wasteful spending. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation and help ensure taxpayer dollars are being used properly.”
Key provisions of the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act 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 bill allows all appropriate federal agencies 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 bill 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.