The Biden administration in 2021 and 2022 paid dead people almost a billion dollars in improper payments, a new report shows, underscoring the extreme largesse of mistaken and overpaid funds that plague the federal government.
Since taking office in 2021, the Biden administration has wasted at least $528 billion in improper payments to people who shouldn't have received them, according to an analysis from fiscal watchdog group OpenTheBooks. More than $974 million of those payments went to dead people, according to the report. In one case, a Missouri man "collected $200,000 in checks for his dead mother for 26 years before the government found out, while a Michigan man collected $500,000 under the name of a dead relative," the report notes. Federal programs ripe with improper payments include Medicaid, Medicare, and the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program.
While improper payments are nothing new, the Biden administration has failed at an unprecedented level. The $281 billion in improper payments seen during fiscal year 2021 is an all-time high, according to OpenTheBooks, while the $247 billion seen during fiscal year 2022 is "more than every other previous year." The administration could have greenlit even more improper payments in 2022, but in many cases, improper payments during that year decreased only because "federal agencies lowered or removed spending requirements," the report says.
OpenTheBooks founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski hammered the Biden administration for the improper payments, asking, "What government program is running well under [President Joe] Biden?"
"Biden just doubled the workforce of the IRS and proposed one of the largest tax hikes in history," Andrzejewski told the Washington Free Beacon. "While on track to waste $1 trillion of your taxes, they want to tax you even more."
The revelation marks a failure from the Biden administration to reign in the avalanche of improper payments seen during the coronavirus pandemic—at least $38 million of which was doled out to dead people. Besides COVID fraud, dead people received $974.3 million through federal retirement services, social security, and old-age, survivors, and disability insurance, according to OpenTheBooks.
Republican lawmakers have urged Biden to reign in improper spending, with Louisiana Republican senator John Kennedy arguing that doing so would be "an easy win" for the president. But Biden apparently failed to heed the advice, as Paycheck Protection Program fraud ballooned to $29 billion in fiscal year 2022. Additionally, two Social Security assistance programs that are ripe for fraud saw $7.4 billion in improper payments between FY 2021 and FY 2022.
In 2019, OpenTheBooks found six million Social Security numbers were active for people over the age of 112. Only around 40 people in the world are known to be that old. The Free Beacon reached out to the Social Security Administration to see how many Social Security numbers remain active for 112-year-olds but has yet to receive an answer.
Lawmakers have attempted to bolster cross-agency communication, record keeping, and transparency to limit improper payments, but the Government Accountability Office has indicated that the federal government’s "inability to determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that appropriate actions are taken to reduce them" is an ongoing problem.
"To operate as effectively and efficiently as possible, Congress, the administration, and federal managers must have ready access to reliable and complete financial and performance information—both for individual federal entities and for the federal government as a whole," the Government Accountability Office argued earlier this year. "Our report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements for fiscal years 2022 and 2021 discusses progress that has been made, but also underscores that much work remains to improve federal financial management and that the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path."
For Kennedy, the improper payments reflect the need to give federal agencies access to a so-called death database.
"One easy step we can take to end this waste and fraud is to give the vast majority of federal agencies access to the complete death database that Social Security maintains so that we know the federal bureaucracy isn’t sending money to people it doesn’t belong to," Kennedy told the Free Beacon.