The Social Security Administration paid out nearly $38 million in benefit payments to veterans thought to be dead, according to their records at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to a recently published audit from the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, the Social Security Administration paid benefits to nearly 4,000 persons listed as deceased in VA records.
SSA issued payments to 3,925 beneficiaries who had dates of death in VA’s records. Our audit results indicated that at least 11 percent of these beneficiaries were alive, and death information in VA’s records was erroneous. However, our audit results also indicated that at least 19 percent of these beneficiaries were deceased, and death information in VA’s records was accurate.
...Based on our sample results, we estimate 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 OIG found one Army veteran continued to receive benefit payments 26 years after his death in 1980.
SSA’s records indicated that someone used the veteran’s SSN to work from 1978 through 1991. In 1991, the suspected identity thief filed for, and began receiving, retirement benefits. SSA issued the suspected identity thief approximately $200,000 in retirement benefits before suspending the payments in May 2017.
The SSA also paid out more than $16,000 in benefits to a Marine Corps veteran who died in 1998, but whose Social Security Number was stolen by a known criminal a full 17 years later.
An individual posing as the deceased veteran spent at least 6 years in prison. In 2015, the suspected identity thief filed for, and began receiving, SSI payments. Since that time, SSA has issued the suspected identity thief more than $16,000 in SSI payments.
The OIG found SSA issued approximately $155,000 in payments to an Army vet after he died in 2011.
In addition to paying out benefits for dead veterans, the OIG also found SSA had also paid benefits to veterans who were very much alive, but who were listed as dead in VA records. Out of a random sample of 100 veterans, OIG auditors found that seven had not only been listed as dead by the VA, but that they continued to be listed as deceased even after VA workers had personally interacted with them.
Of the 100 supposedly dead veterans whose SSA benefits were audited, the OIG was unable to determine the status of 70 percent, launching serious questions into the accuracy of those individuals’ VA records.