Support H.R. 4929, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act

February 15, 2018

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I urge you to support H.R. 4929, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, introduced by Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).

Despite the enactment of three improper payments laws in 2002, 2010, and 2012, such payments continue to be a persistent and costly problem. According to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) consolidated financial statement for fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016, a record $144.4 billion in improper payments were made agency-wide in FY 2016, an increase of $7.7 billion over the $136.7 billion in FY 2015. Improper payments of any kind are wasteful; when they are made to deceased individuals they are inexcusable.

For example, an August 2017 Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General report revealed that based upon the sampling, “SSA issued about $37.7 million to 746 individuals after they died and will issue approximately $7.3 million more over the next 12 months if these discrepancies are not corrected.” The Office of Personnel Management inspector general found in a 2011 report that $601 million in improper payments were made to federal retirees who had died over the previous five years.

This continues to occur because federal agencies in charge of individual payments do not have access to the SSA Death Master File. In order to curb these payments, GAO recommended in 2016 that Congress should amend the Social Security Act to provide all federal agencies using the Do Not Pay system with access to the entire death records database.

In accordance with GAO’s recommendations, H.R. 4929 would open the SSA’s Death Master File to all appropriate federal agencies and authorize GAO and the Office of Management and Budget to conduct oversight of the data sharing. This legislation would significantly improve death data sharing between government agencies, permit them to compile more accurate records on deceased individuals, and curtail improper payments.

CCAGW’s 2017 Prime Cuts identified the reduction of improper payments as a commonsense and effective way to curb wasteful and potentially fraudulent government spending. H.R. 4929 is a straightforward piece of legislation that helps to achieve that objective, while also ensuring that sensitive federal death data sharing has proper oversight. Stopping the flow of federal dollars to deceased individuals is the least Congress can do to reduce waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

All votes on H.R. 4929 will be considered for CCAGW’s 2018 Congressional Ratings.


Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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