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Millions of Dollars in Government Benefits Paid to Dead People

Published on October 10th, 2011

More than $600 million worth of government benefits have been paid out for the past five years to individuals who are already dead, according to a new report from the federal Office of Personal Management (OPM). The benefits, in some instances similar to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, are paid to retired or disabled federal workers. The OPM report documents that, in many instances, benefits payments have continued to be paid to the relatives of the dead beneficiaries long after the person for whom the benefits were intended passed away.

The problem, according to the inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management, is that the deaths are not reported accurately or consistently. The Office of the Inspector General first revealed these problems back in 2005, but no concrete solution has been found. In one particularly egregious example, the son of a dead beneficiary continued receiving his father’s benefits for 37 years, eventually collecting more than half a million dollars. That mistake was only discovered when the son himself died.

There are more than 2.5 million federal workers, including many in Illinois, who receive approximately $60 billion in benefits annually. Compared to that number, a total overall disbursement of $600 million may seem relatively small. However, critics argue it still demonstrates a significant amount of government waste which needs to be cleaned up. Attempts to solve the problem by matching up funding and Social Security databases have yet to solve the issue.

In 2010 nearly 90,000 stimulus payment checks went to people who were either dead or otherwise ineligible. The current administration has made cracking down on this kind of government waste a priority, but enforcement remains an issue.

These issues raise concerns for people who have or may need SSDI benefits, especially in view of the fact that politicians regularly speak about the possibility of the funds backing these government programs going broke. While the government struggles with how to cut its waste, hardworking individuals who find themselves in need of applying for benefits will want to be assured the funds are there for their benefit. In Illinois, an attorney devoted to helping people apply for and obtain SSDI benefits may answer important questions and fight to ensure that all benefits due are approved and paid.

Source: Detroit Free Press, “U.S. government paid $600 million in benefits to dead, 5-year study reports,” Sam Hananel, Sept. 23, 2011

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