Press Release

Congressman Cuellar to Federal Agencies: No More Payments to Dead People

Payments totaled at least $124 billion in FY 14

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Washington, January 5, 2016 | Riley Brands ((202) 226-0507) | comments
Congressman Cuellar (D-TX-28) successfully included language in the recently-passed omnibus appropriations bill to end tens of billions of dollars in payments to dead people, also known as improper government payments to deceased persons. The language requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report on the ways it is working to eliminate the misuse of funds, which totaled more than $124 billion in Fiscal Year 2014, an increase over the $106 billion from Fiscal Year 2013. Congressman Cuellar, a long-time champion of government reform and performance-based budgeting, has targeted these improper payments repeatedly during his tenure in Congress.

“This type of government waste cannot continue. Taxpayers deserve better from our federal agencies and I am grateful that my fellow House Appropriations Committee members agreed to support my initiative to bring greater accountability to federal spending. This is commonsense reform that is long overdue,” Congressman Cuellar said. “This is unacceptable, and we must ensure proper government oversight to see that government benefits are administered correctly and taxpayer dollars are not wasted.

“Many of these improper payments are Social Security benefits being paid to deceased persons. This occurs due to fraud, administrative errors, and poor reporting, among other causes. In FY 2014, 630 people were found to have committed fraud by hiding the fact that someone had died and then in effect defrauding the federal government and stealing the deceased person’s intended benefits.

"The 2010 census identified just over 53,000 people over the age of 100, yet the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General identified 6.5 million individuals with Social Security Numbers over the age of 112 who did not have death information. This is a clear case of federal agencies not coordinating and not sharing data that will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. This review was initiated after a financial institution reported that a man opened bank accounts with several different Social Security Numbers, two of which belonged to persons born in the late 1800s.

“In an effort to stop these improper payments, I included language in the omnibus appropriations act requiring the Office of Management and Budget to report on how it is working across government agencies to ensure processes are in place to eliminate these misuses of funds. As a Member of Congress and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, it is my mission to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently to the benefit of our communities.”
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