Federal Agencies Need SSA's Death Information To Avoid Erroneous Payments

Gao ID: T-HRD-91-6 February 6, 1991

GAO discussed federal agencies' use of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) death information to help in their efforts to remove deceased persons from their benefit rolls. GAO noted that: (1) only three federal agencies obtained and used SSA voluntarily reported death information; (2) no federal agencies received the death information SSA purchased from states, although SSA was negotiating an agreement with one agency regarding such an exchange; (3) four federal agencies' files indicated that they had erroneously paid benefits totalling $475,000 per month to 5,935 beneficiaries that SSA records listed as being deceased; (4) 3 states paid welfare benefits in nearly 3,000 cases to beneficiaries that SSA listed as deceased; (5) even though SSA purchased death information from state bureau of vital statistics, it did not disclose the information due to state restrictions and concerns that other agencies could not properly use the information, but federal law provided for such use for agencies that obtained such information for program usage; and (6) to facilitate governmentwide use of SSA death information, Congress will need to act to enable SSA to uniformly disclose its death information to other agencies, regardless of the data source.

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