Social Security Death Fraud EXPOSED!

washpost-dead-govt-checksIn a city full of shady for-profit government contractors and a bloated national security industry, the Washington Post‘s front page today (11/4/13) is onto… Social Security checks going to dead people?

“Why the Dead Get Government Checks” is the headline over David Fahrenthold‘s latest, with the subhead telling readers: “Agencies Can’t Reliably Tell Who’s Alive, So Benefits Keep Coming.”

The Post makes things sound pretty dire indeed, right from the start: 

The US government has a problem with dead people. For one thing, it pays them way too much money.

In the past few years, Social Security paid $133 million to beneficiaries who were deceased. The federal employee retirement system paid more than $400 million to retirees who had passed away. And an aid program spent $3.9 million in federal money to pay heating and air-conditioning bills for more than 11,000 of the dead.

These mistakes are part of a surprising glitch at the heart of the federal bureaucracy. Because of a jury-rigged and outdated system meant to track deaths, the government has trouble determining exactly which Americans are deceased.

As a result, Washington is bedeviled by both the living dead and the dead living.


David Fahrenthold

David Fahrenthold

The piece also stated that “these failures have become a long-running case study in how government systems break–and stay broken.”

Now, if you’re the least bit curious about how big a problem this might be, the Post doesn’t offer much in the way of help. There’s a passing line about how this is not exactly a common problem: “Federal officials say the vast majority of these cases are handled correctly.”

Wait–I thought the government had no reliable way of telling who’s alive; now we’re reading, almost as an afterthought, that the “vast majority” of deaths are recorded without incident. 

Economist and media critic Dean Baker  (Beat the Press, 11/4/13) had a better headline for the Post piece: “Social Security Paid Out 0.006 Percent of Benefits to Dead People.” But then, that wouldn’t make the front page. 


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.