General Question

john65pennington's avatar

Did you know the Federal Government is paying dead people?

Asked by john65pennington (29187points) June 19th, 2010

Yes, it true. for the past three years, the Feds have been sending benefit checks to 20,000 people that are no longer living. the cost? $180 million dollars to date. to say this is ridiculous is an understatement. Question: now that this blunder has been uncovered, do you think the Feds should make the recepients of the $180 million dollar checks make restitution? after all, this is taxpayers money.

Source: Associated Press, 06–19-10.

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45 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

The proper recipients, as you have pointed out, are deceased. Therefore, they can’t pay back the money. However, the person or persons who took the money illegally should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and restitution should include the amount of the original check and all of the interest it would have earned had it not been in their possession.

Any and all checks identified in the investigation that have not been cashed should have a “stop pay” order placed on them. Someone can get a replacement check if necessary.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It sounds like the process for notifying the Social Security Administration could stand some process improvement. The current process requires the funeral director to notify Social Security, and the only way for a person to get in touch with Social Security is to phone them, or go in person to the office. I wonder why they don’t have a secure website, where you can log the SS#, date of death, death certificate number, and get it taken care of.

Actually, that’s probably a good online business idea for someone—managing the process for settling intestate estates, funerals/burials/cremation, crime scene clean-up, estate sales, etc. Just figuring out if you need an attorney or not would be a big help.

wilma's avatar

Is it just three years? if so why wasn’t it happening before? what changed?

As @Kayak8 said, restitution and fines should be paid.

jaytkay's avatar

I’d be interested to know how many of the checks are cashed.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’d be more interested to know what percent of the total payout was incorrect. I suspect that this number is actually pretty low when compared to the billions of dollars paid out in benefit checks in total over those same 3 years. It would also be interesting to compare that error rate to that of a bank or other major company that handles a similar volume of transactions.

Clearly they need to fix the problems, prosecute the offenders and improve the system overall, but the subtext that the government is incompetent at managing funds isn’t necessarily justified with this limited information.

missingbite's avatar

The real question is, why is our government so inept at almost everything they do?

jaytkay's avatar

The real question is, why is our government so inept at almost everything they do?

You want them to be more like the banking and oil industries?

missingbite's avatar

Well, most of the time the banks and oil companies make money. Not always but more often than the government.

jaytkay's avatar

The government hasn’t destroyed the world economy or Gulf of Mexico lately.

missingbite's avatar

One could argue that the government had a huge part in destroying the world economy and the Gulf is not destroyed. Damaged horribly, yes, destroyed, not yet. Time will tell on that one.

jaytkay's avatar

One could argue that the government had a huge part in destroying the world economy
Feel free.

The Gulf is not destroyed.
Tell it to the fishermen

missingbite's avatar

Well Fannie/Freddie are both GSE’s that were told by the government they had to loan money to people who would never be able to pay the mortgages and that helped lead to the financial meltdown. Lack of government oversight on oil speculators (not oil companies) lead to the artificial inflation of oil prices leading to higher gas prices. This lead to people not being able to pay their bills. Now we have a government that is willing to go TRILLIONS of dollars in debt for social programs that we can’t afford.

As far as the Gulf fisherman. Sure the ones off the coast of LA MS and FL are in horrible shape. I know, I grew up down there and still have family members that live there and make their living on that water. The Gulf is a huge place. It is not destroyed, yet. Maybe one day Obama will be able to appoint someone in charge down there that will be able to stop making stupid mistakes like the Coast Guard did by grounding 16 skimmer boats for 24 hours so we can inspect for life jackets.

There are 7 sections to the Gulf of Mexico and it is the 9th largest body of water in the world. It is not destroyed yet. It very well could end up that way but it isn’t yet. BTW, you do realize that the BP rig was not being properly inspected by the very government you seem to trust. The MMS dropped the ball on that one. The very MMS that was headed up by an Obama appointed person. Great government.

Your que to blame Bush.

bootonthroat's avatar

Yes. The taxpayers are owed 180MM from the government officials in charge of mailing this money out for their gross negligence. Those government officials can in turn try to get it back from the people who cashed the checks.

shared3's avatar

The sad thing is that $180 million in government waste is nothing…yes, I’m a libertarian. ;)

jaytkay's avatar

@missingbite
So industry is hampered by government but government was supposed to handle the drilling rig safely and control world-wide oil trading. And the gulf spill is a huge government-created disaster but BP hasn’t done anything bad to the gulf.

missingbite's avatar

@jaytkay Wow, you read my posts and got that? I never said any of that. Government is supposed to REGULATE industries. They failed. BP failed. If you even glanced at my post I said multiple times the Gulf was not destroyed YET.

Try reading and thinking. Part of governments responsibility is to REGULATE. Our government has failed at this for years. Not just Obama but like it or not he is the man in charge. That means the buck stops with him. So far he has failed. (in my opinion) Can you tell me who is in charge of the oil cleanup? Not an academic task force but a person’s name.

The reason we are paying dead people is because the government is so big we can’t keep track of it all. This administrations answer is….wait for it…..we need more government! What a joke!

laureth's avatar

@missingbite – I think the idea that “the government is inept at almost everything they do” comes mostly from people who see mostly the inept stuff, and disregard (or fail to perceive) all the perfectly fine things that the government does for you every day.

missingbite's avatar

@laureth Usually people feel the way I do because we want to see smaller government. We are strict Constitutionalists. I know the government has to play a role in society. We need a military, regulation, laws… What we don’t like is the constant growing of social programs that overrun our lives. I believe that our government is way to large and growing by the hour.

There is a reason people get upset at “government red tape.” Paying dead people is one of the things that triggers our angst. We are too big to realize we are sending checks to dead people. To go even further, like @shared3 stated, 180 million in waste is a drop in the bucket. We have got to stop or we will become Europe.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite even if we had a radically small government of the likes that you are fantasizing of, dead people would still be getting checks. There will always be accounting errors and fraud, it’s just the reality of bookkeeping. As I said earlier, this number doesn’t mean a whole lot unless we see it as a percent of the total payouts, and compare that percent to other industries to have a sense of how well that money is being managed.

bootonthroat's avatar

@gorillapaws Dead people would not be getting checks if we did away with the social programs that mail them out.

gorillapaws's avatar

@bootonthroat you mean you wouldn’t have benefits for people in the military—just one example?

bootonthroat's avatar

@gorillapaws No. I would not have benefits for people in the military. Instead, I would pay them appropriately and allow them to personally choose how that money was spent. They could purchase insurance to provide similar benefits to what we have now or something they feel is BETTER.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think you would have a hard time recruiting soldiers, when they find out that if they’re wounded/killed in combat, they’re on their own.

bootonthroat's avatar

@gorillapaws You are mistaken. If people received the life-long cost of those benefits when they signed on the recruiting offices would be flooded. Of course politicians would prefer to defer pay until after they are out of office… effectively “spending their successors money”.

gorillapaws's avatar

@bootonthroat so you’re going to pay out every soldier the full value of their disability benefits up-front, even if they never become disabled? Do you have any idea how expensive that would be? Are they supposed to reimburse the government if they don’t become disabled?

bootonthroat's avatar

@gorillapaws It would, by definition, be less expensive than what we spend now. As it stands we have to pay out the value of the benefits plus pay for administration and red tape. It would be much cheaper to allow people to spend their own money. Why would they reimburse the government if they don’t become disabled? That does not make any sense. If you work for Acme, Inc. and they don’t provide benefits you don’t have to give Acme, Inc. back any money if you don’t get sick.

jaytkay's avatar

@bootonthroat If people received the life-long cost of those benefits when they signed on the recruiting offices would be flooded.

Brilliant.Do you ask up front, “What are your plans? Having half your face shot off? Losing a leg? No serious injuries? Will you be having diabetes or perhaps lung cancer? We need to calculate the life-long cost of your benefits.”

bootonthroat's avatar

@jaytkay: I think you can skip asking about individual parts being damaged. What you ask up front is are you prepared to die for your country? Insurance companies can and do compute such risks.

gorillapaws's avatar

@bootonthroat I think you need to research the economic model behind insurance. It’s predicated on the idea that most people will never use it. If you pay everyone up front the full benefit, you’re going to waste a lot of money. If you average out what the payout is, then some people are going to come up short of what they need and others are going to be paid out more than what they need. You might want to go back to the drawing board on that one.

bootonthroat's avatar

@gorillapaws Insurance is not “predicated on the idea that most people will never use it”. In fact, 100% of people will eventually use their (non-term) life insurance. Solder’s would never come up short. As previously mentioned they could always simply purchase a benefit package like the one they receive now through the government.

jaytkay's avatar

Solder’s would never come up short…they could always simply purchase a benefit package like the one they receive now through the government.

I’m sure the insurance companies will gladly give the front-line Marine lieutenant the same rate as the Air Force mechanic in New Mexico.

In the end their expenses average the same. Right?

laureth's avatar

@missingbite – I guess a lot of that would fall under the promote the general welfare part of the Constitution, eh?

missingbite's avatar

@laureth Great, you see my point. Strong military, regulation of business, Infrastructure, laws…and then get out of the way to let people make what they want of themselves. Where in that Constitution does it mention that the governments role is to play Robin Hood and “redistribute” wealth? Nobody is saying that we shouldn’t take care of people who CAN’T take care of themselves, but we are going overboard with social programs. I know people who tell me they can’t afford health care while talking to me on their iPhones. Responsibility.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite you can get an iPhone for $99, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year for health insurance. Try again.

missingbite's avatar

@gorillapaws Try again, it’s a minimum of $1000.00 per year for an iphone unless you are jail-breaking it. Even then, I would argue that if you can’t afford health care, you can’t afford a cell phone. Let’s put it this way. When I had trouble paying for my health care, I didn’t have a cell phone, cable, internet,...because my priorities where right. I guess we are at a point now where all of these things are “rights?”

missingbite's avatar

@gorillapaws I just did a quick internet search for health insurance and found that in my area coverage for myself, wife, and 5 year old daughter. (all three fictional characters) would cost between 139.00/month and 407.00/month. Quite a bit of money but hardly “tens of thousands.” Now, I am sure some people with pre-existing health problems would be a lot higher, but my friends on their iPhones, could cut a few expenses and afford this coverage.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite my parents pay close to $25k/year for health insurance. Neither are smokers.

missingbite's avatar

@gorillapaws They should get another quote unless they have health problems that require special needs. I’m sure they have looked but that is a lot of money for two people. What would their health care bills be if they paid the doctors out of pocket?

I am aware that some people pay a lot more than others. My point is, not everyone that says they can’t afford it, can’t. Some people choose to spend their money other places and expect the government to take care of them. I feel that is wrong.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite Open heart surgery can cost over $100,000 if it’s not run through an insurance company. The insurance companies can negotiate pennies on the dollar with hospitals and doctors (essentially their money is worth more than ours is), which is why the have such a strong hand in the industry, why hospitals and doctors offices are going out of business, and why insurance execs are receiving tens-of million dollar bonuses.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Is none of this money going to the deceased’s family? I know a lot of people getting their spouses’ social security checks and it’s legal.

mattbrowne's avatar

This problem is not created by the government. This is an issue of the quality of public administration. But because people don’t like to pay taxes the salaries in the public sectors are too low. Mistakes happen more often. The best people apply for jobs in the private sector.

missingbite's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m sorry but the public sector is not always under payed. Source. Also, please note the paragraph that states “These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That is a $30,903 difference per employee. The reason the government is paying dead people is because the government is too large and has too much red tape. The screw up almost everything they touch. This administration believes in a centralized government that controls the people. I disagree.

mattbrowne's avatar

@missingbite – I’m very much in favor of making the public sector more efficient. But on average the private sector has an advantage of attracting more talent. Good bureaucrats do contribute to the common good. They even save lives. Lax bureaucrats don’t. A good example are the missing safety checks for the Deep Horizon drilling request.

missingbite's avatar

@mattbrowne Who has been in charge of the MMS, now under a new name so we can’t remember them, for the last 18 months. I know I know, it was GWB’s fault. Bureaucrats get in the way almost every time. Do we need regulation, sure. But not enough that stifles growth. Again, we will have to agree to disagree but as always it’s been debating. You always make some strong points.

mattbrowne's avatar

@missingbite – Yes, not too much regulation that stifles growth. Good point too :-)

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