Fixing the Death Master File: 5 million Americans listed as 112 years old

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The Social Security Administration currently lists five million Americans as 112 years old, according to a spokesperson.

That’s down from a 2015 SSA inspector general report that identified 6.5 million Americans as 112 years old.

The numbers remain high because the SSA cannot verify their deaths, but none of the people are receiving SSA benefits because they exceeded a reasonable life expectancy, according to the SSA spokesperson.

The ultimate goal is to get the names added to the Death Master File, which is a list of Americans whose deaths can be verified. Different federal agencies use the Death Master File as a way to track when to stop payments to citizens.

No fraud was found in the inspector general’s 2015 report, but that is not the only investigation.

In 2013, a report from the Government Accountability Office found that $22 million in crop insurance went to dead farmers.

“Those names are supposed to be checked, and the government is supposed to know, whatever agency it is, they don’t need to keep sending subsidies and checks,” U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, D-Ind., said.

Coats wants all agencies to check the Death Master File before sending out subsidies or federal funds of any kind, and wants to improve SSA’s ability to fix the list.

“The reality is [the list] obviously isn’t being checked,” Coats said. “Millions of dollars are being sent out in subsidies to people who are dead, on the Death Master File, or should be on the Death Master File.”

The SSA argues Electronic Death Registration, or EDR, would improve the Death Master File’s accuracy. EDR allows funeral directors and officials to add someone’s name to the list online.

Currently, eight states do not use EDR.

Of those, Tennessee, Maryland, Mississippi, New York and North Carolina are working with the SSA to use EDR.

Coats does not think Congress needs to pass laws that would require states to make the transition, but suggests the SSA put pressure on the remaining three states to join.

“We’re in the digital age, and it’s time you got your act together,” Coats said.

The map below shows the states currently using EDR and those that do not.

Content Center for DC Bureau DIGITAL_Electronic Death Registration 05061

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