Friday, October 8, 2010

Social Security Checks Sent to The Dead.

SOCIAL SECURITY SENT 72,000 Checks To Dead People.

A new report from the Social Security Office of the Inspector General says that the agency sent nearly 89,000 checks for $250 each to people who were dead or in prison. The payments were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Of those who got checks, 71,668 – which totaled $18 million – went to people who had died. Incarcerated people received 17,348 checks, which added up to $4.3 million.

Some inmates were eligible to receive the payments because they'd been receiving Social Security before being locked up.

About half of the payments have been returned, but the Inspector General does not have the authority to attempt to find and take back the balance of them.

As part of the Obama's stimulus plan, a check was sent to a Maryland woman who died more than 40 years ago.

The woman's son, 83-year-old James Hagner, said he got the surprise when he checked his mailbox late last week.

"It shocked me and I laughed all at the same time," Hagner said. "I don't even expect to get one my own self, and I get one for my mother for 43 years ago?"

His mother, Rose, died on Memorial Day in 1967. Hagner said he'd like to frame it and hang it on his wall.

"I just want to keep it as a souvenir, that's all. I'll never cash it," Hagner said.

The reported noted that the Administration was not entirely at fault:

These conditions occurred because SSA (1) was unaware of beneficiary deaths and incarcerations that were reported after it had certified the ERPs, (2) relied on questionable data in its payment records, and (3) did not review all available records, such as the Numident for death information and Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS) for beneficiary incarcerations.

In response to the report, Social Security Administration press person Mark Lassiter said: "Inaccurate payments are unacceptable".

That statement is not likely to put down the firestorm of criticism that will come from the press, the Congress and taxpayers. The sums of the mistake are relatively small compared to the cost of most programs, but as there is more talk about the damage that the deficit will have on the economy and future generations. The inefficiency of the federal government will come under more scrutiny.

The release of the information could hardly come at a worse time. Republicans are likely to seize on the report as an example of what is wrong with a federal government controlled by Democrats. It is the kind of information that people can hardly help but talk about incessantly.

The Social Security Administration has continued to pay millions of dollars in benefits to dead Americans, and other elderly U.S. residents are at risk of losing badly needed aid because they’re improperly recorded as deceased, federal investigators warn.

The consequences of either bureaucratic error can be severe.
“The addition of erroneous death entries can lead to benefit termination, cause severe financial hardship and distress to affected individuals,” investigators with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General noted in the report, which was quietly released recently.

The mistakes cost taxpayers and individual beneficiaries in different ways. Taxpayers are losing money when benefits are paid to the deceased. Individuals get into trouble when they’re prematurely pronounced dead.

In Southern California and elsewhere last year, investigators analyzed 305 Social Security beneficiaries who were recorded as deceased in their Social Security Administration files. At least 140 of them were still alive.

All told, investigators say, more than 6,000 current Social Security beneficiaries are recorded as being deceased.

In 1962, Lockheed Corp. charged the government $34,560 for 54 toilet covers or $640 each. The covers were meant for use on Navy ships. The story still circulates around Washington as an example of government waste and lack of oversight of expenses. To the legend of the toilet seat can now be added the legend of the checks to the dead.

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