(CNSNews.com) – The Social Security Administration is doing a better job of cutting off payments to dead beneficiaries, but the problem isn’t solved.
According to a May 24 report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, 678 beneficiaries who were verified as deceased as of April 2017 received approximately $20 million in improper payments for 9 to 206 months after their dates of death were recorded on the Numident. (Numident is an acronym for “Numerical Identification System,” the Social Security Administration’s computer database file on everyone who has applied for a Social Security number.)
The audit concluded that the Social Security Administration will issue another $6 million in improper payments over the next 12 months if the problem is not corrected.
Most of the improper payments stem from ineffective system controls, where death reports were recorded on the Numident but not on the beneficiaries’ payment records.
(When death information appears on a beneficiary’s Numident record, but no corresponding death data appear on the beneficiary’s payment record, the system produces a Numident Death Alert, which SSA field office staff is supposed to investigate.)
The audit provides several examples, including:
–“A beneficiary died in June 2009.” Three months later, in “September 2009, SSA recorded her date of death and death certificate number on the Numident. However, SSA did not record the death information on her payment record and therefore continued issuing monthly benefit payments. In June 2013, SSA systems issued a Numident Death Alert, but SSA did not determine the validity of the beneficiary’s continued payments.” Auditors referred the case to its Office of Investigations, “which obtained a New York death certificate and opened a criminal investigation. SSA issued more than $148,000 in improper payments before it terminated the payments in June 2017.”
–“A beneficiary died in September 2010. In November 2010, SSA verified and recorded the date of death on his Numident record,” but not on the payment record — the same situation as the previous example. “In June 2013, SSA systems issued a Numident Death Alert” but continued paying the beneficiary. The auditors “obtained the beneficiary’s obituary notice and referred” the case for criminal investigation. “SSA issued more than $133,000 in improper payments before it terminated the payments in May 2017.”
–In May 2013, SSA recorded the date of death and death certificate number on the Numident of a woman who died in the previous month. However, once again, “SSA did not record the death entry on her payment record.” “In June 2013, SSA systems issued a Numident Death Alert, but SSA” did not look into the continued payments. “In May 2017, auditors “obtained the beneficiary’s obituary notice. “SSA issued over $73,000 in payments after this beneficiary’s death.”