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Lawmakers introduce bill to eliminate improper benefits payments to deceased

170px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgSens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced legislation last week that would provide government agencies with tools to improve interagency coordination to prevent fraud and improper payments to the deceased.

The Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act builds on improper payment laws enacted in 2010 and 2012. The bill would provide all federal agencies with access to the complete Death Master File database, require the use of death data to curb improper payments, ensure federal agencies share best practices and improve the update procedure for the DMF database.

Carper, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pointed to a 2011 report of a man who collected 28 years of Social Security payments issued to his deceased aunt because the government failed to include her death in its records.

“Unfortunately, stories like this are not uncommon and can too often be traced to basic errors in the way our government maintains and shares death records,” Carper said. “Not only do these types of errors waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars annually, but they also undermine confidence in our government… By taking some long overdue and common sense steps like providing federal agencies with access to the most complete and accurate list of people who have died, we can hopefully put an end to this unacceptable practice once and for all.”

Coburn, the ranking member of the committee, said it is “inexcusable for bureaucratic red tape to hinder the detection of individuals who are on the government’s list of deceased beneficiaries.”

“This bill will improve the Social Security Administration’s management of the file while increasing real-time data sharing with other agencies to ensure the most up-to-date information is available on beneficiaries before payments are disbursed,” Coburn said.

A Senate hearing in May examined improper benefits payments to deceased individuals, the occurrence of which has been linked to inadequate death data sharing among federal agencies. The Social Security Administration is responsible for maintaining the DMF.

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