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May 10, 2019

King Co-Sponsors Legislation to Save Millions in Wasted Government Funds Sent to Deceased Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) has cosponsored the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would help save taxpayer funds by ending erroneous payments to deceased individuals. 

“It’s simply commonsense: our taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be going to deceased individuals,” said Senator King. “This legislation will correct bureaucratic errors that waste taxpayer funds, so we can focus our resources on helping living Americans.”

Under current law, the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died – but only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

This legislation would help correct this problem by enacting solutions including:

·       Allowing Federal Agencies Access to the Complete Death Database. Under current law, only agencies that directly handle beneficiary payments may have access to the complete death data. The Act allows all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete death data for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health.

·       Requiring Use of Death Data to Curb Improper Payments. The Act would require that federal agencies make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments.

·       Improving the Death Data. The legislation establishes procedures to ensure more accurate death data.  For example, in response to a recent Inspector General report that identified 6.5 million individuals listed as being older than 112 years of age, the Act prompts the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals currently listed as being alive, and make corrections. The Act will also urge improved procedures for fixing errors where living beneficiaries are mistakenly listed as dead.

In addition to Senator King, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act is supported by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ari.). Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).

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