CHANGE IN THE COUCH
Every week until December 2--which is when the "Super Committee" has to submit its recommendations to reach the $1.5 trillion goal in budget cuts--POGO will publish a “Change in the Couch” post, which identifies cash savings in a place the government might not have checked yet. Are you a tipster who has found change in the government’s couch? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By DANA LIEBELSON
In the latest apparent effort to fund a zombie army with taxpayer dollars, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is paying an average of $120 million a year to deceased annuitants, according to a report by the OPM Inspector General. The total amount paid out in the last five years? That would be $601 million--a decent financial start to World War Z.
The faulty payments are coming out of the federal government’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF), which is continuing to pay annuitants years after their deaths. If this news sounds familiar, here’s why: it’s right on the heels of another report that revealed $40.3 million in social security benefits have also been paid out to dead people since 2008.
This is not a coincidence—OPM is struggling with the same problems that plague the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) death records. As POGO reported earlier, the record isn’t always accurate, as people sometimes fail to notify the SSA that a person has died. Even when they do, the SSA continues to make erroneous payments.
The OPM Inspector General began surveying a sample population of 1000 annuitants over the age of 90 in September, 2009. They found 144 annuitants that did not respond and six unreported deaths. The total population over 90 during the reporting period was 125,000.
According to the report, “despite some positive developments, there remains a high probability that egregious loss of monies from the CSRDF will continue and require strategic corrective action.” The IG provides several recommendations in the report, including capitalizing on modernization technology, recovering funds held in inactive accounts and tracking undeliverable IRS forms.
So if we take the $601 million from CSRDF payments and add that to the $40.3 million lost through social security payments, that brings the total change in the couch to roughly $641 million. This could buy more than 600 concrete, state-of-the-art fortresses to keep out the zombies (not that you should mention that in your letter to a Member of Congress.)
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.
Image via Flickr user Wigwam Jones.