Last month we looked at another in a long, sad series of stories about dead people collecting Social Security, welfare and other benefits for impressively long periods of time after they reached room temperature. Yes, the dead are not only voting, but they’re collecting on all sorts of government goodies. But this month I ran across a story of yet another activity that the dearly departed are engaged in and I never would have guessed it. As the Free Beacon reported last week, these miraculous zombies are not only cashing in on food stamps, but some of them are actually operating the stores where SNAP benefits are redeemed.
“We found that 3,394 authorized SNAP retailers (retailers) used Social Security Numbers (SSN) that matched SSNs of deceased people,” the inspector general said. “Additionally, 193 retailers listed owners who were not at least 18 years of age. While FNS did have some controls to edit or verify SNAP retail owner information, these controls were not adequate to ensure owner information accuracy.”
Between October 2013 and June 2015, the inspector general identified 3,394 stores owned by 1,819 people who were using SSNs listed on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
Wow. Those are some seriously ambitious dead people. You can see how they might need some help buying groceries because it’s really hard for a corpse to get and keep a job, but opening and operating a business? Impressive.
All joking aside, we continue to learn more about how all of this fraud takes place and why. The last time I wrote about it we received a few questions asking if the government recycles Social Security numbers and if some of these instance might just be bookkeeping errors. As it turns out, the government has yet to reissue a single SSN and they’ve got approximate half a billion left before they’ll need to worry about it. So the short answer is… nope. These are almost certainly cases of fraud in the vast majority of instances.
But what’s the benefit of doing it on the store owner’s end? That’s harder to say, but it’s possible that someone who is a criminal, a fugitive, has a terrible credit rating or is otherwise hindered from operating a business might need a different ID to be able to participate in programs such as SNAP. Some of them may be organized crime fronts. Who knows? The point is, we still are woefully inadequate in our ability to keep track of who is dead, who is alive, and which corpses are defrauding us of tax dollars.
Here’s the amazing bit of news (at least to me) buried in the report. The Social Security Administration actually has and maintains a Death Master File which purports to list all of the people with Social Security numbers who have died. Access to it is restricted, but with the proper need you can dredge up information there. But there’s an obvious glitch. The United States has, to date, issued more than 450 million numbers under this system. The Death Master File contains less than 95 million names. How up to date do you suppose that is?
Here’s a big area of opportunity if our government truly wants to reduce fraud and other crime in this area, not to mention being able to tighten up the voter roles. Let’s get this database entirely up to date and make a significant push to ensure that each new death is not only promptly recorded there, but that the information is efficiently promulgated out to election boards and every other official entity where such information would be applicable. (Identify fraud, anyone?) I don’t think we need to be terribly concerned over the privacy rights of the dead at this point and we might save the taxpayers significant amounts of money and cut down on crime, all with a bit of documentation housekeeping.