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Watchdog report: Social Security Administration paid $38 million to dead veterans

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Social Security Administration paid out nearly $38 million to veterans that were already dead, according to an Inspector General report released last week.

A veteran salutes during the presentation of colors near the grave of General of the Armies John J. Pershing at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Veterans Day, November 11, 2003. A recently released watchdog report found that the Social Security Administration paid millions to veterans after their death due to data errors. (File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI)

The Inspector General for the SSA found a systematic problem in which the SSA continues to send payments to veterans after they were listed as dead by the Veterans Administration. In other cases, the VA listed people as dead who were still alive. But the crux of the problem appears to be deaths that aren’t recorded properly and not put into the SSA system to determine whether a payment should continue or stop.

“SSA reviewed selected instances and stated that VA had not included most of the individuals’ death information in monthly death data transmitted to SSA,” the IG report stated. “Based on our sample results, we estimate SSA issued about $37.7 million to 746 individuals after they died and will issue approximately $7.3 million more over the next 12 months if these discrepancies are not corrected.”

Stephanie Hall, acting deputy chief of staff at the SSA, told Stars and Stripes that the organization is “reviewing the issue internally.”

“We will continue to process death reports we receive from the VA per our policy, but we are unable to control the accuracy of the information VA provides,” Hall said.

But the issue has been ongoing for several years. In some cases, payments were being sent out to veterans more than a decade after their death.

One veteran who died in 2005 continued to receive benefits until this year, totaling more than $100,000.

The IS recommended that the SSA review and update its data, as well as work with the VA “to ensure subsequent data exchanges include comprehensive death information.”

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Watchdog report: Social Security Administration paid $38 million to dead veterans