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Why is the government paying Social Security benefits to the dead?

Government check
Government check
U.S. Government

Not all government waste is intentional. Some of it is just carelessness. Exhibit A is a December Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not accurately confirm the deaths of beneficiaries. The upshot is that payments continue to be made to people who are dead — sometimes for decades. If this revelation isn’t sobering enough, note a large chunk of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill contains past last week is earmarked for the SSA.

And it’s not just Social Security payments that are affected, notes The Foundry. “Multiple other federal agencies that pay benefits — from federal pensions to payments to farmers and the disabled — rely on SSA’s flawed death data.”

So where do these payments to the grave end up? The answer in many cases is in the hands of surviving relatives. The post’s author, Laura Trueman, writes:

Raymond O’Dell made news this week when he was sentenced for collecting his dead mother’s Social Security benefits for 23 years. O’Dell collected $188,000 in benefits, while building a successful Taco Bell franchise. His accountant put his net worth at $4 million (including $431,000 in cash). This week, he was sentenced to pay back the benefits, along with a $20,000 fine, and will serve six months in prison.

Read the rest of the story here.

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