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Federal Watchdog Group Calls on SSA to Strengthen Death Information Procedures

A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found deficiencies in the manner in which the Social Security Administration (SSA) collects death information and shares it with other government agencies.

Death information is a strong tool that helps keep federal benefit checks from going to the deceased. However, according to GAO, current methods used by the Social Security Administration encourage the production of inaccurate, incomplete, and untimely information. In fact, according to the report, approximately 1.2 million deceased recipients of SSA retirement benefits were not included in the final tally. Inaccurate information like this could result in other agencies that rely on the information making improper payments to the deceased.

The GAO report is also questioning the federal agency’s system in place for sharing such information with other federal agencies. For instance, recently, one senator asked that SSA officials change its policy of charging other agencies for accessing data records. Social Security officials insist that the agency must be reimbursed for the cost of furnishing such information to other federal agencies.

The Government Accountability Office is asking the Social Security Administration to furnish death information, and make the reason for the costs of this reimbursement more easily accessible to other agencies. The GAO report recommends that the SSA assess the risks that are associated with its current information-sharing systems, as well as share detailed reimbursement estimates. The SSA has agreed to both of those recommendations.