Posted: 2:30 pm Friday, March 13th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
A few days after an audit revealed over 6 million active Social Security accounts for people over 112 years old, a new internal report shows the same agency often continues to pay retirement benefits to people who have died, and then does not move to reclaim that money which is sent out via direct deposit.
The report from the Social Security Inspector General estimated that “at least $17,103,800 in outstanding payments” were made in recent years wrongly by direct deposit, even after the accounts of beneficiaries had been suspended, because those people were likely deceased.
“However, we believe the actual figure is likely higher,” the report concluded.
A common theme of these reviews is that the master death list used by the Social Security Administration does not get updated often enough, allowing benefits to flow even after someone has died.
“SSA did not have effective controls to terminate records of deceased beneficiaries and recover direct deposit payments made after the beneficiaries’ deaths,” the Social Security Inspector General stated in this latest report.
Investigators specifically focused on 59 different individuals in this review, and found that benefits were being wrongly paid in almost every case.
“We estimate that SSA improperly paid about $1,111,000 to the 58 deceased or likely deceased beneficiaries,” the Inspector General reported, noting that officials “did not attempt to recover payments” from most of the beneficiaries.
And in many cases, that means Uncle Sam simply loses the funds, either to relatives who take the money from the bank account, or the funds are ultimately transferred into a state’s treasury after several years of inactivity in that account.
“Based on our review of bank records, we determined that SSA did not recover at least $855,000 in payments made after the deaths of 37 of the 52 beneficiaries,” the report noted.
Investigators said fifteen of the beneficiaries had their deaths listed on the master death list – but that information was not transferred over to then stop monthly Social Security payments.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.