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5 Outrageous Examples of Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Federal Spending to Make You Either Laugh or Cry


You can't turn on the TV or open up the newspaper anymore without seeing or reading about waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.

Watchdogs have identified more than $1 billion in waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending in the first decade of the new millennium. Millions of dollars went to pay for prescription drugs, wheelchairs and stimulus checks for dead people, for example. Millions more went for heating homes once owned by deceased Americans.

Here are five examples of waste, fraud and abuse that will make you either laugh, or cry.

1. Stimulating the Dead

More than 89,000 deceased or locked up Americans were sent $250 stimulus checks in 2009, according to a September 2010 report by the Office of Inspector General in waste, fraud and abuse. That adds up to about $22.3 million in stimulus checks, most of which were mistakenly mailed out. The erroneously mailed stimulus checks, or Economic Recovery Payments, were among the one-time payments of $250 mailed out to 52 million retirees, disabled individuals and Supplemental Security Income recipients receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration.

2. Warming the Dead

The Department of Health and Human Services sent 11,000 dead people across seven states $3.9 million in assistance to for pay heating and cooling costs, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office investigation of waste, fraud and abuse. The payments were made through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which is designed to provide aid to low-income households.

3. Farm Subsidies for the Dead

From 1999 through 2005, the federal Farm Services Agency paid out $1.1 billion in subsidies to 172,801 dead farmers, according to the Government Accountability Office. The subsidies are designed to encourage Americans to pursue farming as a profession. It's OK for farms to continue receiving payments for two years after a recipient's death, but GAO investigators looking into claims of waste, fraud and abuse discovered that lots of money was going to farmers who had died long ago.

4. Housing Subsidies for the Dead

Maybe cemeteries just weren't good enough. Local public housing assistance agencies paid out more than $15.2 million in housing subsidies to 3,995 low-income households where at least one tenant was - you guessed it - dead. That's according to a 2008 report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General, which investigates claims of waste, fraud and abuse at the agency.

5. Pain Meds for the Dead

Taking the cake for waste, fraud and abuse in federal government could be this 2009 finding from the Government Accountability Office. Medicaid paid more than $200,000 for prescriptions written for over 1,800 dead people in five states in 2006 and 2007. What's even funnier - or more infuriating, depending on your point of view - is that the health-insurance provider for low-income Americans shelled out more than $500,000 for prescription drugs that had been written by 1,200 dead doctors. Medicare, meantime, has allowed fraudsters to walked off with as much as $92 million in medical equipment including wheelchairs, oxygen condensers and canes.

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