Social Security Administration (SSA) officials paid $165 million in federally funded benefits to dead people, many of whom had died multiple years ago, according to a new SSA Inspector General (IG) report.
The money went to deceased Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (Title II) beneficiaries discovered by cross-checking SSA data with medical claim information from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).
Investigators reviewed a sample of 100 current Title XVI recipients over age 90 from California, New York and Texas, and found that 30 of them were dead and had been gone for an average of five years. One woman died more than 27 years ago.
Investigators believe SSA is also paying millions more to dead and disqualified people through a program for poor blind, elderly and disabled individuals.
“When the agency does not receive timely death reports or information about recipients who live outside the United States, improper payments occur,” the IG said. “As such, we believe SSA would benefit by taking additional steps to better identify deceased recipients.”
Another 29 of the 100 recipients reviewed shouldn’t receive Social Security benefits because they live outside the U.S. Social Security recipients must live inside the U.S. or a U.S. territory to receive benefits, and must tell SSA when they move out of the country.
SSA terminated benefits for the people the IG identified, although the IG didn’t say whether SSA tried to recover any money.
The IG said SSA needs to crosscheck medical data from CMS with its own data for Title XVI recipients over age 90, which the IG said SSA isn’t doing now.
SSA officials agreed and said they plan to start a diary for all SSA recipients over age 90 and interview recipients who have no recorded activity for three years.