NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dead Federal Retirees Paid $120 Million Yearly

September 26, 2011

The federal government pays out millions of dollars to dead people each year -- including deceased retired federal workers, according to a new report by the Office of Personnel Management, says the Washington Post.

  • In the last five years, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has made more than $601 million in payments to dead federal retirees, according to the agency's inspector general.
  • Total annual payouts range between $100 million and $150 million.
  • In one dramatic case, a deceased annuitant's son continued receiving federal benefits until 2008 -- 37 years after his father's death.
  • OPM learned of the improper payments -- which exceeded $515,000 -- only after the son also died.
  • The agency never recovered the payments.

The report, published September 14, said OPM is attempting to stop and recoup payments in several ways, by conducting weekly and annual matches of its data against the Social Security Administration's death records and occasionally checking records for retirees 90 years and older to determine whether they are still alive.

Overall, the federal government's improper payments totaled about $125 billion in fiscal 2010 -- a $15 billion year-to-year increase due to a growing number of unemployment insurance and Medicaid payments.  Despite the jump, federal agencies also recovered about $687 million mistakenly paid to delinquent government contractors and beneficiaries.

Source: Ed O'Keefe, "Dead Federal Retirees Paid $120 Million Yearly, Report Says," Washington Post, September 22, 2011.  "Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased Annuitants," U.S. Office of Personnel Management, September 14, 2011.

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