It’s no secret that, under the right circumstances, you can do pretty well for yourself if you land a job with the federal government. And if you stay there long enough, you can set yourself up for a nice, secure retirement situation until you die. But did you know the party doesn’t have to stop just because of a pesky detail such as reaching room temperature? You can keep right on cashing in!
The federal government pays out millions of dollars to dead people each year — including deceased retired federal workers, according to a new report.
In the past five years, the Office of Personnel Management has made more than $601 million in benefits payments to deceased federal annuitants, according to the agency’s inspector general. Total annual payouts range between $100 million and $150 million.
Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland, who previously reported on the improper payments in 2005 and 2008, urged OPM to more closely track such mistakes.
As Doug Mataconis points out at Outside the Beltway, we’re not talking about a staggering amount of money here in terms of the total federal budget, but in today’s toxic atmosphere regarding waste and spending, this is going to be a problem for somebody.
It’s actually quite inexplicable considering that one branch of the Federal Government actually does a fairly decent job of cutting off benefits after death. The Social Security Administration is well-known for sending notices to banks immediately upon learning of a recipients death — something that happens very quickly nowadays since deceased person’s Social Security Numbers are immediately reported as such by the relevant authority in the jurisdiction where they live — and also recouping payments after death on a pro rata basis. Why the OPM is unable to do this?
The other issue, of course, is that there’s some actual fraud going on here. Family members who continue to collect benefits after a retiree dies are defrauding the Federal Government. Since the odds of recovering anything from people like this years after the fact are minimal at best, it strikes me that the best deterrent would be to start prosecuting these people and send the message that defrauding Uncle Sam comes with consequences.
Well, that’s a bit unfair, don’t you think? I mean, in Chicago the dead can vote. How do you expect them to pay for gas to get to the ballot booth if you cut off their retirement benefits?
All jokes aside, this isn’t a new problem. We’ve known about it for years and the story pops up from time to time. (Particularly during a heated election cycle.) The real question, as Doug notes, is how has the OPM failed to make any serious inroads in eliminating it yet when Social Security has been so much more effective in tackling the problem. I assume that each retiree’s social security number is on record and somehow associated with their account. We’re not living in the era of dusty log books kept in hand written records. Do you mean to say there isn’t a way to automatically report the fact that the person has died to OPM as soon as Social Security knows about it?
If anyone from that office is reading this today, perhaps they should take a quick look at this video.