“Dead or Alive? Social Security Can’t Always Say” – Washington Times
By Tom Howell Jr.
Federal auditors said Friday the Social Security Administration still struggles with a basic problem — figuring out who is dead and who is not. The question is a crucial one, since federal agencies rely on the administration to cross-match data on deceased persons and avoid paying out federally funded benefits to people who aren’t alive, or to establish accurate benefits for survivors. The administration also maintains a “Death Master File” that is available to the public. “SSA’s methods for processing death reports may result in inaccurate, incomplete or untimely information for users of its death data,” the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, said in the new report. “Consequently, this could lead to improper payments if benefit-paying agencies rely on this data.” Auditors attributed these pitfalls to how they verify death reports from a patchwork of sources, which include state sources, families, funeral directors, post office, financial institutions and more. The auditors also found inconsistencies in how several federal agencies reimburse the SSA, if at all, for sharing its data. Some agencies share data with the SSA, too, and consider their arrangement a reciprocal one, yet administration officials “were unable to point to any reciprocity study supporting this decision.” The auditors said the administration should develop clearer plans for how it obtains death reports, ensures their accuracy and shares them with other agencies.
Finish Reading/Source: Washington Times