WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, continued his efforts to tackle government waste and fraud, and strengthen the integrity and efficiency of federal programs. On Monday afternoon, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held the hearing “Examining Federal Improper Payments and Errors in the Death Master File,” to examine errors in the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File,” the federal government’s official list of deceased individuals. The hearing further explored a Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General Report (OIG) report that 6.5 million people who have active Social Security numbers, according to SSA’s own records, exceed 112 years of age and are likely deceased, and witness testimony described how thousands of living people each year are mistakenly listed as dead. The topic was also the focus of a 60 Minutes investigation that examined fraud and identity theft due to these errors.
“For nearly a decade, I’ve been exploring ways that the federal government can do a better job curbing costly improper payments, including those made to deceased individuals. While until recently we were seeing significant improvements, last fiscal year, the federal government made an estimated $125 billion in improper payments, and taxpayers are the ones paying that hefty price tag.” said Sen. Carper. “If we’re going to get a better handle on our debt and deficit – and, frankly, improve Americans’ impression of how we take care of their money – we need to sharpen our pencils and stop making the kind of expensive, avoidable mistakes that lead to wasteful spending and make our agencies and programs vulnerable to fraud and abuse. I thank Chairman Johnson for holding this hearing and will continue working with him, the Administration and others to make addressing this issue a higher priority for agencies and implement some common-sense steps we can take to curb improper payments. I plan to introduce additional legislation that addresses the problems within the Death Master File that were described during the hearing.”
In 2002, The Improper Payments Information Act required agencies to estimate the levels of improper payments made each year. In 2010, Senator Carper built upon on that effort with former Senator Coburn (R-Okla.) and introduced the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA), which expanded the requirements and established new, federal-wide policies and procedures for agencies to identify, prevent and recover improper payments.
In 2012, Sen. Carper was joined by Sen. Collins (R-Maine) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-NH) to introduce the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act. Building off a very good initiative of the Administration, this law made permanent the “Do Not Pay’ program”, which is designed to screen all federal payments in order to double check basic eligibility requirements.
In 2013, Sen. Carper was joined again by former Sen. Coburn to introduce legislation that would provide agencies with the tools needed to improve agency coordination on anti-waste and fraud efforts and curb millions of dollars in improper payments to deceased individuals. In 2014, the Senate passed the Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act, a bill that built upon Sen. Carper’s 2010 and 2012 laws to reduce improper payments across federal agencies.
In February, Sens. Carper and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced The Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015, which would improve existing programs, requirements and procedures established to identify and prevent improper payments. The measure was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month.