Federal Benefit Payments

Agencies Need Death Information From Social Security to Avoid Erroneous Payments Gao ID: HRD-91-3 February 6, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies' use of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) death information for preventing erroneous benefit payments and the collection of overpayments.

GAO found that: (1) federal agencies' lack of a timely and effective way to detect unreported beneficiary deaths caused them to pay millions of dollars in erroneous payments to deceased beneficiaries; (2) in September 1989, 20 federal benefit programs erroneously paid more than $4.3 million to the accounts of beneficiaries who were listed as deceased in SSA records; (3) SSA provided its database of 40 million voluntarily reported deaths without charge to federal agencies with benefit programs; (4) none of the agencies obtained supplemental death information that SSA obtained from state bureaus of vital statistics; and (5) SSA could disclose state death certificate information to federal agencies administering health or income maintenance programs in 19 of its 53 state agreements, but the remaining 34 agreements required written release from the originating state.


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