Social Security Administration (SSA) officials gave $5.8 million to dead Californians and sent checks living people being listed as dead, a government watchdog reported Tuesday.
“SSA was issuing benefit payments to 83 individuals whose [personally identifiable information] matched that of individuals who died,” the SSA Inspector General (IG) report said.
“SSA did not terminate benefit payments when the [beneficiaries] died and approved claims identity thieves filed,” the report continued. “As a result, SSA issued approximately $5.8 million in improper payments to 33 beneficiaries who died in California from 1970 through 2004.”
SSA officials terminated benefits and updated death records in response to the IG’s findings.
Additionally, 43 people were marked dead, but were alive and still receiving Social Security benefits. In eight of those cases, the beneficiaries were marked dead because identity thieves who had stolen their personal information died.
SSA officials were unsure whether six people were alive, and one person was appropriately marked dead.
One woman stole more than $238,000 in Social Security funds from her dead mother’s bank account over the course of nearly 20 years. One man stole his dead half-brother’s identity and raked in nearly $294,000 in disability benefits over a 24-year period before SSA terminated the payments in 2015 – six years after investigators determined that the man’s half-brother died.
The IG also found another 188,000 people that are likely in the grave who had active Social Security numbers but weren’t receiving payments.
“SSA subsequently recorded death information on approximately 161,000 of these records,” the report said. “Resolution of these discrepancies reduced SSA’s exposure to future improper payments and improved the accuracy and completeness of the” agency’s death database.
Officials at SSA weren’t sure if the remaining 27,000 were dead.
The IG previously found 14 dead Californians who received approximately $3 million in Social Security payments and 64,000 people who were likely dead, but not marked as such.
Two years ago, the IG’s annual report to Congress noted that more than $46 million had been mistakenly sent to dead beneficiaries.