A bipartisan bill to sharpen the government’s tools for curbing payments to deceased people emerged on Wednesday from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancement Act would provide agencies and inspectors general with new ways to coordinate on anti-waste and fraud efforts and save the government millions of dollars in improper payments to deceased individuals.
The bill, which was approved unanimously, is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the panel; Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking member of the committee; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; John Tester, D-Mont.; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
For the first time, numerous agencies would be given access to the constantly updated Death Master File maintained by the Social Security Administration.
“This legislation ensures that the federal government will keep track of people who have died, shares that information with key federal agencies, and ultimately prevents payments to people who are obviously no longer eligible for federal benefits and other federal payments,” said Carper in a statement. “By taking some long overdue and common sense steps…, we can hopefully put an end to this unacceptable practice once and for all.”
Coburn said, “Preventing government payments to the deceased is a no-brainer.”
The bill would update the 2010 and 2012 Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery acts. The committee’s move came two days after the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying the Agriculture Department needs to improve its rate of making improper farm-support payments to deceased recipients.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will examine another type of payment error -- improper tax refunds sent out by the Internal Revenue Service - -during a Friday hearing.
There is no direct House counterpart for Senate bill.