Despite being dead for years, hundreds of veterans remained on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) payroll and received nearly $38 million in benefits, according to a report from the Social Security inspector general.
The report showed inaccurate death records at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the VA’s failure to share monthly death reports with the SSA. The communication gap resulted in an estimated $37.7 million being inappropriately doled out to 746 people.
That number could rise more than $7 million over the next year if the issues aren’t resolved, the inspector general said, according to the Washington Times.
After cross-referencing the VA’s records with the Social Security’s database, the audit found nearly 4,000 cases in which payments were sent to people listed as dead.
It was based on a sample size of 100 names that were listed as dead under the VA, but were never shared with Social Security, the Times reported.
The SSA laid the blame on the VA for failing to provide accurate information.
“We have notified the VA of our concerns with their data and they are reviewing the issue internally,” Stephanie Hall, acting deputy chief of staff at the SSA, told Stars and Stripes. “We will continue to process death reports we receive from the VA per our policy, but we are unable to control the accuracy of the information VA provides.”
However, a VA spokesperson told the Washington Times, that “the vast majority of the records VA provided SSA in 2016 were accurate,” but “is reviewing the information we share with the Social Security Administration to ensure we are providing the most complete and up-to-date information possible.”
The VA has had a history confusing the living and the dead dating back more than a decade. In 2006, $11.7 million was paid out to deceased veterans, according to a report from the SSA inspector.
The latest report reveals one veteran, who died in August of 2008, received a total of $160,000 until payments stopped in March 2017.
It also revealed cases of identity fraud. In one instance, someone assumed the identity of an army veteran who died in 1980, and collected $200,000 in retirement benefits, the Times reported.