The Social Security Administration has paid dead federal workers $1.7 million in recent years, with the deceased receiving benefits an average of seven years after their death, according to an agency watchdog.
An audit released by the agency’s inspector general Monday revealed that the Social Security Administration had not crosschecked beneficiaries’ deaths with the Office of Personnel Management, which manages federal employees.
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Missing just 35 deaths cost taxpayers $1.7 million.
"OPM’s annuitant file contained deaths that were not recorded in SSA’s systems," the inspector general said. "SSA paid $1.7 million in [Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance] OASDI benefits to 35 deceased beneficiaries. The average payment after death was $49,156 for an average of 84 months."
"Additionally, we estimate SSA would have continued paying these beneficiaries approximately $258,000 over the next year had the deaths not been identified," the inspector general said.
Another six deceased individuals received $56,695 after their benefits were terminated by the agency.
As of May, the agency has only recovered $112,557 out of the $1,720,464 paid to deceased federal workers. The audit was based off employee data collected by the Office of Personnel Management, which is required to provide government-wide administration of retirement benefits and services for all federal workers.
In one case, a Georgia woman who died in 2007 continued to receive benefits until 2015. Her son said he informed the agency of her death, but was able to cash checks intended for his mother amounting to $68,192 over seven years. The son was recently ordered to repay $63,446 to the government.
The agency called the $1.7 million payments to dead government workers an "extremely small number."
"The $1.7 million overpayment cited in the report represents less than one-tenth of a percent of total benefit payments," the agency said in response to the audit. "Over the years we have made, and will continue to make, enhancements to ensure our death data is accurate and to stop payments when we receive confirmed death reports."