According to a new report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid out $171 million dollars by improperly paying recipients twice for their benefits. An audit by the SSA inspector general discovered numerous instances of “improper payments” to individuals claiming benefits through multiple social security numbers (SSN) and $115.4 million in benefits for deceased individuals.
The inspector general’s report states:
Based on our sample results, we estimate that SSA issued approximately $171 million in improper payments to about 2,000 beneficiaries who had multiple cross-referred SSNs. If the Agency does not correct these errors, we estimate it will improperly issue about $21.2 million over the next 12 months. SSA also recorded death information on approximately 2.7 million non-beneficiary numberholders’ Numident records but did not input death information on their cross-referred SSNs. As a result, we estimate SSA erroneously excluded more than 2 million deceased numberholders’ SSNs from the Death Master File. [Emphasis added]
Some 4.9 million Americans have more than one social security number, according to the Free Beacon, usually because they are past victims of identity theft. The SSA is often negligent in its issuance of benefits, however. The Free Beacon highlights one instance where an individual’s benefits were terminated upon their death in 1997, but the agency failed to “crosscheck another SSN assigned to the individual” – which was used to cash $31,000 in benefits 14 years later.
The audit brought other disturbing findings to light:
We also identified over 13,000 instances where SSA continued paying beneficiaries after it recorded death information on their cross-referred SSNs… Based on our sample results, we estimate SSA issued about $115.4 million in improper payments to 930 deceased beneficiaries after it input death information on their cross-referred SSNs. If the Agency does not correct these errors, we estimate it will issue $13.7 million in additional improper payments over the next 12 months. [Emphasis added]
For more on entitlements reform, see David Hogberg’s special report on free market health care and reducing government waste.