Last night, the U.S. Senate approved legislation to curb millions of dollars in improper payments to deceased individuals. The Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act (IPACE), introduced by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is bipartisan legislation that builds upon Chairman Carper’s existing improper payment laws, enacted in 2010 and 2012.
“All too often, we hear stories of criminals taking advantage of basic errors in the way our government maintains and shares death records,” said Chairman Carper. “Not only do these types of errors waste millions of taxpayer dollars annually, but they also undermine confidence in our government. That’s frankly unacceptable. This bill fixes this problem by implementing some basic reforms. It ensures that federal agencies keep track of people who have died, shares that information, and ultimately prevents payments to people who are obviously no longer eligible for federal benefits and payments. By taking some long overdue and common sense steps like providing federal agencies with access to the most complete and accurate list of people who have died, we can put an end to this unacceptable practice once and for all. I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting this legislation and urge my House colleagues to support its passage.”
“It is inexcusable that in the 21st century, one federal agency doles out money to individuals that another federal agency knows to be deceased,” said Dr. Coburn. “Errors like this cost taxpayers millions of dollars and this bill will bring much needed transparency to ensure that deceased individuals are no longer receiving federal benefits.”
This legislation comes after a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in May 2013 that examined initiatives by the Executive Branch to reduce the improper payments made by federal agencies. The hearing examined improper payments to deceased individuals, often due to inadequate sharing among federal agencies of basic death data maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete, and less timely version of the death data that is also available to some private sector and public entities. IPACE will correct these problems by making the following changes:
• Allow Federal Agencies Access to the Complete Death Database. Under current law, only some agencies may have access to the complete death data. IPACE allows all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete death data for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health. The substitute includes a “sunset” of this provision after five years.
• Require Use of Death Data to Curb Improper Payments. IPACE would require that federal agencies make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments.
• Improve the Death Data. The legislation establishes procedures to better facilitate the sharing of death data among federal agencies, such as death information from the Department of Defense, which records some deaths overseas.