Dead?  You Can Still Get Social Security – These People Did

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Close to 4,000 people whom the U.S. Veterans Administration thought had died received Social Security checks, an audit has found.

But some of the “dead” people weren’t dead. And some were.

At least 19 percent of the 3,925 beneficiaries studied got government checks sent to them even though they were no longer with us, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, which issued a report this week.

That amounts to an estimated $37.7 million to 746 people who had died — and another $7.3 million during the next 12 months if federal officials don’t fix the problem.

The Social Security Administration runs one federal pension program for retired and disabled people and their dependents and survivors; and another for poor people who are elderly, blind, or disabled.

“Under both programs, payments should terminate when beneficiaries die,” the Inspector General’s report states.

But that didn’t happen for 19 deceased beneficiaries of 100 randomly selected cases.

On the flip side, 11 of those 100 listed as deceased weren’t dead. And they were still listed as dead after they had proven to the government they weren’t — “In seven instances, [Social Security Administration] records indicated that SSA employees had face-to-face contact with the beneficiaries after their dates of death in VA records,” the report states.

That accounts for 30 of the 100. So what about the other 70?

Not sure.

“We did not determine the status of 70 beneficiaries,” the report states. “In these instances, information available in public records or other available documentation did not sufficiently indicate whether the individuals were alive or deceased.”

Why did the actually-dead “dead” beneficiaries keep getting checks?

“SSA reviewed selected instances and stated that VA had not included most of the individuals’ death information in monthly death data transmitted to SSA,” the report says.

That benefited somebody in California, who kept getting about $160,000 worth of payments after the veteran who was supposed to be getting them died in Thailand in August 2008. The payments continued until March 2017, or more than eight and a half years.

Another $102,000 went to someone in Texas between the time a U.S. Army veteran died in April 2005 and the termination of payments around June 2017 — or more than 12 years.

Identity thieves also made out. One suspect used a U.S. Army veteran’s Social Security number to get a job starting in 1978, and kept using it even after the veteran died in 1980. The suspect kept working until 1991 and then applied for federal retirement benefits – netting about $200,000 between 1991 and May 2017, or about 26 years.

In another case, disability payments kept going to an Army veteran in North Dakota even after he died in 2011 — about $155,000 worth through April 2017, when payments finally ceased.

Yet the report did offer some good news.

The Inspector General’s office advised the Social Security Administration to review files and stop payments when a beneficiary is determined to have died, to refer instances of suspected fraud for investigation, and to work with the Veterans Administration to ensure that death information is properly transmitted.

“SSA agreed with our recommendations,” the report states.