Coats: Federal Payments to Dead People Must Stop

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), the Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, today delivered his weekly “Waste of the Week” speech and highlighted $27.6 million in federal payments made to dead people.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that, between 2008 and 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made $27.6 million in payments for conservation, disaster relief and crop subsidies to dead people.

“What’s most disturbing is that GAO found that most of these recipients had been dead for two or more years,” said Coats. “And this is just one department in the federal government. It is simply inexcusable that these payments are going to dead people, and taxpayers should be outraged.”

Coats said that all federal payments should be matched against the Master Death File, a list maintained by the Social Security Administration, to ensure that only people who are alive and eligible actually receive benefits. By law, the Master Death File is shared with the necessary federal agencies to ensure deceased persons do not receive benefits. The Master Death File is updated using information from hospitals, families, state governments and other sources to keep track of people who have passed away.

“Now there are two ways this could have happened,” said Coats. “One, names of dead people are not in the Master Death File, or two, the USDA did not check this list before it sent the checks. Either way, someone dropped the ball.”

Coats said the Master Death File needs to be fully updated, which should be simple in today’s digital age, given all the technological resources we have available. The senator also said that the Social Security Administration needs to do what it is statutorily required to do and provide the list to agencies issuing the payments so they can verify that beneficiaries are alive before any checks are sent.

To watch this week’s installment of Waste of the Week, click here.


About Brian Scott

I play on the radio from 7 am -1 pm weekdays on 98.9 WYRZ and Follow me on twitter @WYRZBrianScott or e-mail me at

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