In the recession, it seems that some dead people are living the good life.
More than 72,000 departed souls received $250 stimulus checks, according to a new report by the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General. The checks totaled about $18 million, and only half were returned.
Approximately 52 million people received stimulus checks as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and only those receiving Social Security or Supplement Security Income were eligible to receive the stimulus dollars, according to the report. Being alive was another condition of eligibility, but that didn’t stop the government from sending millions of dollars to the deceased.
It’s not unusual for a small number of deceased persons to receive Social Security benefits, and the report estimates that in 86% of cases the Social Security Administration had simply not been informed of the beneficiary’s death. In the other 14% of cases, however, the payments “could have been avoided,” according to the report.
It wasn’t just the dead who improperly received payments – more than 17,000 incarcerated criminals also made out like, well, bandits. The majority of these imprisoned beneficiaries would normally have been eligible to receive the payments, and there was no provision in place to prevent the disbursement. In all, the incarcerated received $4.3 million in payments.
The SSA lacks the authority to recover the improper payments, and the report recommended that the agency be given that authority for future payments.
Despite the embarrassing oversight, the erroneous payments represent only a tiny fraction of the checks. Indeed, Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter pointed out to the AP that the payments were 99.8% accurate.