Dead People Collecting Millions in Social Security Benefits

By:  Michael Tennant
Dead People Collecting Millions in Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration has been paying millions of dollars in benefits to dead people over periods ranging from two months to nearly 20 years.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been paying benefits to dead people — in some instances, for nearly two decades — according to a recent report from the SSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

“SSA issued payments to 2,475 beneficiaries for months and, in some cases, years after it received notification that they were deceased,” wrote OIG. “SSA received death reports for these individuals and recorded the dates of death on the Numident,” an electronic file that contains data on each individual with a Social Security number (SSN), but “did not record the death information on the beneficiaries’ payment records or terminate their payments.”

Of the 2,475 potentially deceased beneficiaries, OIG found that 1,546 had death certificate numbers in the Numident, “a reliable indicator that the numberholder is deceased.” On average, each of these dead individuals continued to receive a total of $20,023 in benefits over a period of 20 months. However, some had been raking in the dough for a whopping 237 months — almost 20 years.

One beneficiary who died in April 2000 and whose date of death and death certificate number were recorded in the Numident in February 2001 was still getting paid as of May 2012, by which time taxpayers had been taken for approximately $158,000 in benefits. According to a footnote in the report, the SSA finally terminated this individual’s benefits in August 2012, after which an OIG investigation “revealed a family member had access to the deceased beneficiary’s bank account and converted $160,101 in benefit payments for his own use.”

All told, OIG estimated that these deceased individuals (or their unscrupulous relatives) have taken in about $31 million in benefits. Those who remain on the rolls are expected to cost taxpayers another $15 million over the next year if the SSA does not terminate their benefits.

Another 879 individuals identified as deceased by the SSA may or may not be dead, said OIG. Dates of death were recorded in the database, but death certificate numbers were not. A search of public records concerning a random sample of these individuals indicated that at least a third of them are still alive.

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