The Costly Impact of Errors in the Death Master File

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week, 60 Minutes aired its investigation on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. The investigation traced the costly and, in worst cases, life-altering ripple effects of incorrect or outdated data that’s used to determine eligibility for federal benefits and by the private sector for credit reporting.


Oftentimes, errors in death data lead to something called “improper payments.” Those are payments made by federal agencies in error or due to fraud, putting an added strain on our already stretched-thin federal budget. Last fiscal year alone, improper payments cost American taxpayers $125 billion. For the past decade, I’ve worked to root out these instances of waste, fraud and abuse, and enact common-sense reforms to prevent them.

This week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where I serve as the top Democrat, held a hearing that further examined improper payments because of inaccurate Death Master File information, and the actions we must take to fix these problems. I will soon be introducing legislation based on what I learned from the hearing and building on years of past work to curb improper payments. 

In 2010, I was proud to introduce the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), which became law. In 2013, I teamed up with Sen. Coburn again to enact the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, which provides agencies with new tools needed to improve anti-waste efforts and curb millions of dollars in improper payments. This Congress, I introduced The Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 to continue the forward progress.

I’m a big proponent of looking at everything we do and searching for ways to make it better. That’s why I will continue pushing for common sense reforms to make sure federal agencies practice better stewardship of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. 

As always, I encourage you to send me your views on this issue, or any other, through email or by contacting me on Twitter @SenatorCarper and on Facebook at