Another Attempt to Stop the Government From Paying Dead People

The federal government routinely pays benefits to people who have died. Another bill has been introduced to try to prevent this from happening.

How should the government make sure it is not sending money to dead people? It’s a question that has been addressed before through legislation that has been introduced in different sessions of Congress, but so far none of the proposed bills have become law.

The latest bill attempting to tackle the issue comes from Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL). The Valid Benefits Act (H.R. 3013) would require heads of federal agencies and departments to verify eligibility for federal benefits for individuals 105 years of age or older.

Why 105? Well, odds are that a person is more likely to no longer be living from this age onward, although frankly, that is a very conservative number to use in the bill considering the average life expectancy at the time of this writing is 78.6 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Steube said in a statement:

It’s estimated that in 2018 alone, dead people received $1 billion in benefits from Medicare, Medicaid, social security payments, and federal pensions. This bill simply directs federal departments and agencies to verify the eligibility of those seeking benefits who have reached the age of 105.

With this bill, heads of federal agencies and departments will be required to verify that those they are giving benefits to are in fact alive. As our national debt rages, it’s important that we do what we can to ensure our tax dollars are being spent in the way they were intended. Guaranteeing the rightful recipient of benefits receives benefits is just one way we can address this problem.

Besides the figures cited by Steube, another example of the problem showed up in a report from the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General which said that the agency had paid $1.7 million in OASDI benefits to 35 deceased beneficiaries. The average payment after death was $49,156 for an average of 84 months.

And an IG report from the Office of Personnel Management in September 2011 found that improper payments from the Federal Government’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF) to dead people totaled $120 million per year over the prior five years.

Steube’s bill faces an uphill battle on the matter though considering it currently has no co-sponsors, no companion legislation in the Senate, and the fact that similar bills addressing the matter never advanced very far in Congress.

For instance, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act (H.R. 4929) would have allowed all federal agencies access to the Death Master File, the most complete information on who has died, maintained by the Social Security Administration in an effort to cut down on improper payments. The same bill was also introduced in 2015. Both bills were never signed into law.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.