Jun 25, 2013

Paying Money To Dead People

     The Wall Street Journal is running a story on a report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General concerning payment of benefits to 1,546 people listed in the Death Master File as dead. 
     It's funny. I had seen the same report and thought it showed that on the whole Social Security was doing a good job. I thought about posting about the report but decided that it wasn't of any real consequence. Obviously, I don't think it's a good idea to pay money to people listed as dead and I support reasonable efforts to prevent this but the error rate discussed here seems so low that I think things are going pretty well.
     Social Security's reaction was to point to its 99.9% payment accuracy rate. Isn't that good enough? 
     Was this report really newsworthy? 

     Update: Matthew Yglesias makes the same point. Social Security's payment accuracy rate is astonishingly good.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

How many of the dead receiving benefits also voted in Chicago?

Anonymous said...

Who says that the 99.9% accuracy rate is correct? I think the accuracy rate is probably in the mid-90% range, but I have seen enough overpayments and foolish SSA practices, that I am convinced that the error rate is higher than a tenth of a precent.

Anonymous said...

Unless the claim is a disability claim where workers' compensation payments are also involved or where government pension offset is involved, accuracy is very high.

The problem is, if one case has one big payment problem, it is likely to be a recurring problem because a technician has no clue what is going on(e.g. processing benefit increases for new earnings, but consistently removes the government pension offset).

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that anyone in the Field offices has ever believed in the 99.9% accuracy figures. A day does not pass that a multiple significant payments errors are discovered.

This error rate is a result of increasing complexity of the programs and inadequate staff to handle the workloads.

Anonymous said...

The pay rate of 99.996% is based on the total dollar amount of payments made v/s the overpayments for these particular cases. It simply isn't accurate overall, but it looks good on paper! The numbers game can be skewed to fit any side of an argument.

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