It's a well known fact that U.S. government employees get great benefits, but did you know that for at least the last five years, the federal government has been sending benefit checks worth an average of $120 million to retired federal employees who are also, by the way, dead?
This latest revelation of over $601 million in government waste comes in the form of an investigation and accompanying report filed last week by Patrick E. McFarland, the inspector general (IG) of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
According to IG's report, Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased Annuitants, the value of benefit checks improperly sent to deceased federal retirees averages from $100 - $150 million annually and has totaled more than $601 million since 2006.
Perhaps even more troubling, the report shows that loss to the government because of these improper "post-death" payments during the last five years has risen at a rate of 70% per year, while the value of total legitimate payments to retirees has increased at a rate of only 19%.
How Improper is Improper? As an example of the improper payments, IG McFarland cites the case of a government retiree's son who continued to get and cash benefit checks until 2008 - a full 37 years after his father's death in 1971. The $515,000 worth of improper payments was only discovered when the son died. The funds were never recovered.
According to McFarland's report, improper payments made by all federal agencies totaled around $125 billion in 2010. Due largely to the recent growth in numbers of unemployment insurance and Medicaid payments, McFarland projects that improper payments will continue to increase by at least $15 billion a year. The government has recovered around $687 million of the $125 billion improperly paid out in 2010.
What to Do About It? A master of understatement, McFarland wrote in his report, "It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money."
As what he called "only partial remedies at best," McFarland noted that his agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is now making weekly and yearly audits of its benefits mailing lists comparing them to names in the "Master Death File" maintained by the Social Security Administration.
In addition, OPM recently sent letters to 4,400 of the about 125,000 federal retirees over age 90, basically asking them if they are still alive. To date, notes McFarland, 144 of the 90-and-older retirees who did not respond to the letter have had their benefit mailings suspended pending further investigation.
Perhaps more effectively, OPM is also working with the IRS to identify deceased retirees and taking steps to improve communications with the families of deceased federal retirees.
Dead People Got Economic Stimulus Checks
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