The survivors of 1.2 million deceased Americans may have wrongly received government benefits because the Social Security Administration (SSA) failed to properly record and report their deaths, according to a new report from the SSA's own watchdog.
In a report issued last week, the Social Security Administration's inspector general details how the failure of the SSA to record the 1.2 million deaths in its "Master Death File" had probably resulted in families and other survivors continuing to receive various federal benefit payments from farm subsidies to Medicare long after the legal beneficiary had died.
Also See: About the Master Death File
The SSA maintains and distributes the Master Death File to all federal government agencies to assist them in managing their benefit payments.
The inspector general found that while Social Security had been properly removing deceased beneficiaries from its own beneficiary lists, and cutting off retirement and disability payments accordingly, they were not consistently recording the deaths in the Master Death File, thus creating the potential for other agencies to continue paying benefits.
Note: What's a 'Numident?' In the inspector general's report, the term "Numident" appears often. Numident (Num-ident) is simply an acronym for "Numerical Identification System," the Social Security Administration's computer database that matches names with Social Security numbers and other personal information.
While the inspector general's report did not indicate how many of the 1.2 million people not recorded on the Master Death File were still getting federal benefit payments, it did reveal that since 2001, 1,556 deceased beneficiaries had recorded combined earnings of about $158 for one or more years after their deaths. During 2010, 681 deceased beneficiaries received benefit payments one or more years after their deaths.
As you might expect and hope, the inspector general recommended the Social Security Administration take more care in making sure that deaths recorded on its beneficiary roles are also reported on the Master Death File and determine whether it can efficiently correct any of the 1.2 million beneficiary records identified during the investigation.
The Social Security Administration agreed with the recommendations, noting it would examine its death reporting processes "As resources allow."