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Bulletin Today | Money & Savings Print Print

Just because you’re dead apparently doesn’t mean you’ll stop getting your government benefit.

A new report found that the Social Security Administration didn’t properly record the deaths of 1.2 million Americans on a list that’s distributed to federal agencies and private companies that pay benefits, says the Washington Post. That means that the payments may have continued well after the beneficiary’s death.

The inspector general of the SSA audited a sample of cases and found that Social Security benefits had been stopped once the agency was notified of a death. But the names of the 1.2 million people weren’t listed on a “Death Master File,” either because data about them didn’t match up with other computer systems, or due to errors by employees.

Government agencies and private companies rely on that file to determine whether people receiving benefits are still eligible to get them.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Social Security subcommittee, called the poor recordkeeping “inexcusable” and said the failure to properly maintain the database of deaths costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, the Post reported.

About 62 million people collect Social Security benefits, and millions more get benefits such as veteran pensions and farm subsidies. In 2010, President Obama directed federal agencies to shore up their systems for determining people’s eligibility before releasing any payment or award.

Last year, a report found that the federal government’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability fund improperly paid dead federal workers $120 million annually over the last five years. One man, whose father died some 40 years earlier, continued to collect payments until 2008, when he himself died, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management report.

Photo credit: Brenda Starr via flickr.com