Last month, Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced legislation that would stop agencies from paying dead people.

The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, S.2374, targets erroneous disbursements from executive agencies to the beneficiaries of deceased individuals, also known as “improper payments.”

Alarmingly, tax dollars are wasted on such payments far more often than you might think. A recent report by the SSA’s Office of Inspector General found that there were more than 3,900 beneficiaries marked as deceased who may still be receiving improper social security payments. Beyond that, the report found that the SSA paid out $37.7 million in improper payments to 746 dead individuals.

Unfortunately, improper payments aren’t just isolated to the SSA. In their Consolidated Financial Statement for FY 2015- 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments across executive agencies cost taxpayers over $140 billion. 

While some of the blame for these improper payments can be placed on bureaucratic incompetence, it is primarily caused by inaccuracies in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Death Master File or “death database,” and the fact that some executive agencies have only partial or no access to it at all.

Fortunately for taxpayers, Kennedy’s S.2374 would address these problems by allowing federal agencies to have complete access to the death database, and by giving the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget oversight of the database and it’s sharing.

Accompanying legislation with over a dozen cosponsors has also been introduced in the House, H.R.4929, by Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

If implemented, these bills would improve accountability over bureaucratic agencies, improve the accuracy and accessibility of our death database, and ultimately reduce the amount of hard-earned tax dollars that are spent on dead people, making them a huge victory for taxpayers across the country.

Americans for Tax Reform recently signed on to a coalition letter with numerous other conservative organizations supporting the legislation. That letter can be found here.