report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
Death information on CDPH [California Depart of Public Health] files was not always recorded on SSA records. At the time of our audit, SSA was issuing benefit payments to 83 individuals whose PII [Personally Identifiable Information] matched that of individuals who died in California from 1970 through 2004.There's a lot to notice here. Yes, benefits were being improperly being paid to at least 28 people. However, there were more cases where simple data matches indicated that a person was dead when they were actually alive. More aggressive use of data matches to cut off the benefits of dead people will inevitably cut off benefits to more people who aren't dead. That's a nightmare for the people whose benefits are cut off. Notice that sensationalist media may point to 188,000 people that Social Security doesn't know are dead without mentioning that none of them is being paid benefits.
We also identified approximately 188,000 numberholders who were likely deceased but had no death information on the Numident [Social Security records]. At the time of our review, none of these numberholders was receiving SSA payments. We provided SSA with the numberholders’ information, and SSA recorded death information on most of these record. ...
- In 34 cases, the beneficiaries were deceased. SSA terminated benefits to 28 beneficiaries and identified approximately $4.6 million in improper payments. SSA suspended payments to five beneficiaries but had not quantified the related improper payments. We estimate improper payments in these five cases totaled approximately $ 1.2 million. The remaining case did not involve improper payments.
- In 43 cases, the beneficiaries were alive. SSA and the Office of Investigations determined that none of the cases involved improper payments to the beneficiaries.
- In six cases, SSA was determining the beneficiaries’ status. The Office of Operations referred the cases to its regional offices for development.