WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman, and Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called attention to a new Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General Report (OIG) report that 6.5 million people who have active Social Security numbers, according to SSA’s own records, exceed 112 years of age and are likely deceased.
The report outlined preventable errors in the SSA’s numident file, the official database of all people with active Social Security numbers. According to the OIG, these errors would affect not only Social Security payment accuracy but could cause waste and fraud across the federal government. The errors also could lead to identity theft.
Only 35 known living individuals worldwide had reached age 112 as of October 2013, according to the Gerontology Research Group. A few thousand of the records reviewed by the OIG seem to show living individuals who hold Social Security numbers and who were born before the Civil War. Furthermore, the OIG found that an individual opened bank accounts using several different Social Security numbers for beneficiaries born in 1869 and 1893. SSA’s records showed both beneficiaries as being alive, meaning they would be older than 145 and 121 years respectively.
“It is incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead,” said Sen. Johnson. “This problem has serious consequences. Tens of thousands of these numbers are currently being used to report wages to the Social Security Administration and to the IRS. People are fraudulently, but successfully, applying for jobs and benefits with these numbers. Making sure Social Security cleans up its death master file to prevent future errors and fraud is a good government reform we can all agree on.”
“This report by the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General details a major problem with how we report and keep track of deceased individuals,” Sen. Carper said. “Not only do these types of avoidable errors waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars annually and expose our citizens to identify theft, but they also undermine confidence in our government. It is simply unacceptable that our nation’s database of Social Security numbers of supposedly living people includes more than six and a half million people who are older than 112 years of age, with a few thousand having birth dates from before the Civil War. Preventing agency errors by keeping track of who has died is a relatively simple problem that the government should pursue as a high priority. I will soon contact the head of the Social Security Administration asking for specific answers as to how and when they will take the findings in this report to heart, and urge the agency to work with Congress to put an end to this unacceptable situation.”