As politicians debate the best way to address the national deficit, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has found one line-item that would seem easy to cut: payments to dead federal workers.
The federal government’s Civil Service Retirement and Disability fund has improperly paid dead federal workers $120 million annually over the last five years, a new OPM report finds. One man, whose father died in 1971, continued to receive payments until 2008 when he himself died, costing the government $515,000, according to the report.
Patrick E. McFarland, the OPM’s Inspector General, called the improper payments a “waste of taxpayer money” in the report. And with stories like these, it’s less surprising that Americans say the government wastes more than half of taxpayer money, according to a recent Gallup poll.
The posthumous payments are often the result of survivors failing to report a retired workers death, which is why the OPM is asking Retirement Services to pursue measures such as an annual computer match between its annuity role and the Social Security Administration’s death records, according to the report. The OPM also surveyed a sample of those over 90 on its annuity role to make sure they were still alive, as part of its “Over 90 Project” in 2009.
Even with video messages on OPM’s website encouraging survivors to report retirees deaths in a timely fashion, the jobs crisis may make survivors more interested in reaping benefits.
One Florida man didn’t report his wife’s death in 2003 because he was out of a job, according to records obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act.
“Due to lack of … employment, he didn’t really care to make any notification because he needed the money,” OPM investigators wrote in a memo, according to the Times.
Though paying retirement benefits to dead workers may be one of the more egregious examples of waste, the report said compared to other benefits programs the CSRD fund’s improper payment rate is “arguably low.” Still, improper post-death payments cost the government $601 million in the last five years, according to the report.
Government workers and their families aren’t the only ones getting posthumous benefits, however. Some CEO contracts have “golden coffin” clauses, according to AlterNet, which stipulate that their families will get paid millions if they die while working for the company.