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As reported by the Washington Times, the federal government has paid out well over $1 billion to 250,000 deceased individuals over the past decade—and can’t figure out how to fix the problem, according to a new report from Senator Tom Coburn, M.D.
“Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills,” the Oklahoma Republican’s report says.
Among the disclosures, based on a review of government audits and reports by the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general, and Congress:
• The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in stimulus funds to 71,688 dead people, and $40.3 million in questionable benefit payments to 1,760 deceased individuals.
• The Department of Agriculture sent $1.1 billion in farming subsidies to dead farmers.
• The Department of Health and Human Services sent $3.9 million to 11,000 dead people to help pay heating and cooling costs.
• Medicare paid up to $92 million in claims for medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors and $8.2 million for medical supplies prescribed for dead patients.
In some cases, the payments went to dormant bank accounts, while in others they landed in the pockets of living people who are “defrauding the system by collecting benefits meant for a now-deceased relative,” according to Coburn’s report.
The detected waste “is likely only a small picture of a much larger problem,” the report notes.
In June, the Obama administration announced new steps to avert payments to the deceased. Federal agencies are now required to check their payees against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
“But SSA admits its records are fraught with errors,” the report states. “It is extremely expensive and may even be impossible to determine if a person is alive or dead, particularly if the person died many years ago.”
Coburn concludes: “At this point in our nation’s history, it is of the utmost importance that every tax dollar spent by the government be put to good use. This means spending within our means on the living, not outside our means on the dead.”