Mar 11, 2015

Age 112 And Still Not Dead On Social Security's Books

     From a recent audit report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
SSA did not have controls in place to annotate death information on the Numident records of numberholders who exceeded maximum reasonable life expectancies and were likely deceased. To illustrate, we identified approximately 6.5 million numberholders age 112 or older who did not have death information on the Numident. 
     This report is drawing attention from Congress and the media.
     The important thing to note is that Social Security isn't paying benefits to these deceased numberholders. There are a few people who are supposedly 112 or older who are receiving benefits but these are mostly due to errors in inputting date of birth, that is the people are actually younger than 112. For instance, somebody input 2/2/01 when they meant to input 2/2/91. There are a few other people receiving benefits on an incorrect account due to transposition errors in inputting their Social Security number when they applied for benefits. These folks are as likely to be underpaid as overpaid. These cases are only a very minor problem.
     OIG's point is that the Social Security numbers of people who are dead are sometimes used for identity fraud that doesn't involve Social Security benefits. This leads back to Social Security's longstanding complaint that it's set up to issue benefits to those who are entitled to benefits, not to administer a de facto national identification system. 
     It may be tempting to say that Social Security ought to declare dead everyone identified in their database as 112 or older but Social Security already knows that it has an incorrect date of birth for many people. It just doesn't know which people. Declaring someone dead when they are alive creates major problems. That already happens way too often. Declaring everyone dead who is down in Social Security's records as being 112 or older will lead to howls of outrage from thousands of people who would wrongly be declared dead and whose lives would be badly disrupted. It's not just Social Security. Other government agencies and financial institutions rely upon Social Security's Death Master File.
     OIG has a legitimate interest in preventing fraud, whether it's fraud on the Social Security Administration or identity fraud involving a Social Security number. However, OIG seems unconcerned with the problem of collateral damage to innocent people from overaggressive efforts to prevent fraud.


Anonymous said...

The OIG is taking its cue from the Congress about finding items that make the agency seem incompetent despite knowing full well that their solutions are often too simplistic, suffer from tunnel vision and ignore the fiscal restraints that exist in the real world. OIG would have the agency so hidebound in antifraud processes that it'd be amazing if real work got done. No different from the perspective of many House subcommittees. Focused on trees rather than considering their role and the impact that will occur in the forest.

I can't guess at how many women I took claims from, especially back when they were getting enumerated for the first time or during the 40s and 50s who had no problem admitting that the dob on their record was false. They made themselves older to work, made themselves younger to hide how old they were from a husband. DOB was a fluid item socially for women especially back then. And SSA had no need to care at the point an SS5 came in because proof would come at retirement time.

The point is, in the scheme of prioritizing record keeping for purposes of doing the agency's mission, keeping the numident accurate wasn't that high.

I guess that the numident could be programmed to take on a new code, say "A" for "assumed dead due to be aged 112 or above" , put that on the DMF and let the marketplace shake those out by having someone like a bank or credit issuing org or utility reach out to the consumer/number holder to come in to SSA and correct their records or face loss of the service.

Anonymous said...

I heard a story about this topic on NPR last night. SSA's response I thought was rather telling. To paraphrase, a rep said that SSA does not have the proper funding or budget to fix the Death Master File, but they would look into the matter and give a response by September. The response, while accurate, seemed a bit blunt.

Anonymous said...

You may not know that since SSA restarted the centenarian review in 2010, after many years of no review, non report of deaths were big and overpayments in the 100's of millions. Same for the medicare non usage program. Unknown if SSA reviews out of the country over 100. Reviews have been lessened the last few years and re review after initial verification not being done.

Joey Constanza said...

I think that social security should be looked over more carefully. It's amazing to me that a federal program could have so many flaws in it. In fact, I think that there was something going on with it and my grandpa. Perhaps he should see about getting some legal help on that.

deepak mavi said...

The biggest hole in the "60 Minutes" segment was the lack of suggestions about what to do about what is plainly an enormous .............
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