Death Does Not Mean Parting From Government Payments


When the first line of the story reads: "The federal government pays out millions to dead people each year," you know you are on to something. In this case, something is continued annuity payments to federal workers who have moved on to the ultimate retirement in the sky.

And when the dollar amount is more than $600 million in five years, we’re talking about more than a few mistakes. The Washington Post has the story; here’s a recap.

Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland, who previously reported on the improper payments in 2005 and 2008, urged the Office of Personnel Management to more closely track such mistakes.

“It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money,” he wrote in the report.

Improper payments to dead retirees increased 70 percent in the past five years, far higher than the 19 percent climb in overall annuity payments, the report said.

The payments are on the rise because OPM is doing a poor job of tracking potential cheats, McFarland said. In one case, a deceased annuitant’s son continued receiving federal benefits until 2008 — 37 years after his father’s death. OPM learned about the improper payments — which exceeded $515,000 — only after the son died. The agency never recovered the money.

Last October, an investigation by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) concluded that the government had paid nearly $1 billion to at least 250,000 dead people since 2000. That same month, a watchdog group reported that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program had made 89,000 payments of $250 each to dead or incarcerated people. 

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