The federal government has been paying welfare benefits to the dead and withholding Medicare benefits from the living, according to a new report from the Inspector General (IG) of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The report, released October 12, set out to determine whether some individuals were improperly receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments after having their Medicare benefits terminated because they were considered deceased. SSI, which provides income support to needy individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled, is administered directly by the SSA. Medicare, which provides health insurance to the aged and disabled, is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but the SSA determines who is eligible to receive Medicare benefits and maintains the benefit records. Thus, one would expect the SSA to terminate both SSI and Medicare benefits for a particular beneficiary when the agency is notified that the beneficiary has passed away.
In most cases that is what occurs. However, the IG discovered that as of March 2012, 52 individuals were still receiving SSI benefits despite the fact that their Medicare benefits had been terminated because the SSA believed they had died.
Upon further investigation, the IG found that 30 of the 52 individuals were indeed deceased and should have had their SSI benefits terminated. “SSA overpaid these deceased individuals $405,357 in SSI payments for an average of 23 months,” the report says. Thirteen dead persons had been receiving benefits for over two years; one of them had even been raking in the dough for more than three years.
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