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Bipartisan push from lawmakers comes after GAO reported last month that Treasury sent more than 1 million coronavirus stimulus payments – worth approximately $1.4 billion – to dead people

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.). John Kennedy (R-La.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) sent a letter urging House and Senate leaders to include the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Actin the next COVID-19 relief package. The letter, addressed to Majority Leader  Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, comes after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last month that the U.S. Treasury sent more than 1 million coronavirus stimulus payments—worth approximately $1.4 billion—to dead people.

The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced in both the 116th and 115th Congresses by Senators Carper, Kennedy and Peters, would help save billions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals. Last month, the legislation was passed unanimously by the Senate. It included S. 4104, an amendment authored by Dr. Paul that would specifically reclaim coronavirus stimulus payments that were incorrectly sent to dead people. 

“As elected officials one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act is a common sense bipartisan measure that would help save billions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous government payments to people who are deceased. We urge the Congress to take action to address this issue once and for all,” the Senators wrote. 

In May, Senators Carper and Kennedy and Representatives Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig, and Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul, asking each agency to take immediate action to prevent further improper payments through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

A copy of the letter can be found below and here.

Background

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died. However, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information. 

In addition, most inspectors general lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act has several key provisions, including: 

  • Allowing federal agencies access to the complete death database. Under current law, only federal agencies that directly manage programs making beneficiary payments have access to complete death data. The bill would allow all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete record of death data in order to promote public safety and accuracy in distributing benefits.
  • Requiring agencies to use death data to curb improper payments. The legislation would require federal agencies to use this death data in order to curb improper payments and reduce waste and fraud that occur when agencies send taxpayer money to people who are no longer living.
  • Improving the death data. The legislation would establish procedures to ensure more accurate death data. For example, the bill requires the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals, as a 2015 Inspector General Report identified 6.5 million people who were listed as living despite the fact that they were all recorded as being more than 112 years old.

 

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