Number:        116-18   
Date:             July 14, 2020

Senate Passes S. 4104, the
“Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act”

On June 30, 2020, Senator Rand Paul introduced and the Senate passed S. 4104, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act without amendment by unanimous consent. The bill would, among other things, amend section 205(r) of the Social Security Act (Act) to permit the Social Security Administration (SSA) to share its full file of death information (including State death data) with the Department of Treasury for the purposes of operating its Do Not Pay (DNP) working system and administering its Economic Income Payments (EIPs). The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

S. 4104 includes the following provisions of interest to SSA:

Section 2. Distribution of Death Information

Would amend Section 205(r) of the Act (42 U.S. Code § 405(r)) as follows:

  • Would require the Commissioner to reimburse States for the cost of transmitting death data and for ensuring the “completeness, timeliness and accuracy” of the data.

  • Would require the Commissioner, to the extent feasible, to provide through a cooperative arrangement its complete file of death information to:

    • Federal or State agencies providing federally funded benefits for purposes of preventing improper payments.

    • Federal agencies for any of the following purposes:
    • operating the DNP working system,
    • tax administration duties,
    • oversight activities of the inspector general; or
    • civil or criminal enforcement activities authorized by law.

  • Would allow the Commissioner to enter into similar agreements with States to provide its complete file of death information for use in the administration of State pension plans or retirement system for employees of a State or a political subdivision.1
  • Would allow the Commissioner to provide the complete death file to Federal and State agencies for statistical purposes and research activities (including activities conducted under a contract or cooperative agreement 2).
  • Would require Federal and State agencies to reimburse the Commissioner for the reasonable costs of sharing death information, including the costs of collecting and maintaining the information.3
  • Would require the Commissioner to establish a method for calculating the reasonable costs of carrying out cooperative arrangements for sharing its full file of death records. Such calculation must not take into account any services, information, or unrelated payments provided by the agency to the Commissioner. Reimbursement payments must be accounted for and recorded separately from other transactions.
  • Sunset

  • Would repeal the amendments made above to Section 205(r) of the Act and restore its original provisions, effective 5 years after the date of enactment.
  • Report to Congress on Alternative Sources of Death

  • Would require the Commissioner, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury (“Secretary”), to conduct a review of potential alternative sources of death data maintained by non-Federal sources, including an analyses of:
    • the accuracy and completeness of the data;
    • the interoperability of the data;
    • the accessibility of the data by Federal agencies;
    • the cost to Federal agencies to access and maintain the data;
    • the security of the data;
    • the reliability of the data; and
    • a comparison of the data to the death data distributed by SSA.

  • Would require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“Director”), no later than 4 years after the date of enactment, to submit a report to Congress on the results of the review conducted by the Commissioner, including a recommendation whether the provisions to extend agency access to the death data distributed by SSA should be extended beyond the date the amendments are set to be repealed.
  • Section 3. Improving the Use of Data by Government Agencies to Curb Improper Payments

  • Would require the Director, no later than 1 year after the date of enactment, to issue guidance and provide access to death databases to agencies that operate a database of information relating to beneficiaries, annuity recipients, or any purpose described in Section 205(r)(3)(B) of the Act.
  • Would require the Secretary, in consultation with Federal agencies, States, local agencies, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations4 , no later than 1 year after the date of enactment, to submit a plan to Congress on how to assist such agencies and organizations in providing the Federal government electronic death information for individuals who are recipients of federally funded benefits.
  • Section 4. Plan for Ensuring the Accuracy and Completeness of Death Data

  • Would require the Commissioner, no later than 1 year after the date of enactment, to submit a plan to Congress to improve the accuracy and completeness the death data it maintains and distributes, including an estimate of the cost for implementing the plan.
  • Would require the Commissioner to consider whether to include in the plan:
    • Procedures for:

      • identifying individuals who are extremely elderly but for whom no record of death exists in SSA’s records;
      • verifying the information of such individuals and correcting any inaccuracies; and
      • disclosing corrections made to SSA’s death records where appropriate.

    • Improved policies and procedures for identifying and correcting erroneous death records, including:

      • identifying individuals listed as dead who are actually alive;
      • identifying individuals listed as alive who are actually dead; and
      • allowing individuals or survivors of deceased individuals to notify SSA of potential errors.

  • Improved policies and procedures to identify and correct discrepancies in its records.
  • A process for using statistical analysis of the death data to determine an estimate of the number of erroneous records.
  • Recommendations for legislation, as necessary.
  • Section 5. Report on Information Security

  • Would require the Commissioner, no later than 90 days after the date of enactment, to submit a report to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Oversight and Reform, and Homeland Security, and the Senate Committees on Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that:
    • identifies all SSA information systems that contain sensitive information; and
    • describes the measures SSA is taking to secure and protect such systems.

    Section 6. Limited Access to Death Information Maintained by the SSA for Recovery of Erroneous Rebate Payments

  • Would amend section 205(r) of the Act to require the Commissioner, within 30 days of enactment, to provide Treasury with access to its complete file of death information for the purposes of administering EIPs under the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S. Code § 6428).5
  • Would require Treasury, to the extent possible, to carry out any measures as are deemed appropriate to suspend, cancel, and recover payments issued to individuals shown on SSA records disclosed to Treasury as being deceased before January 1, 2020.
  • _____________________________________

    1For purposes of this paragraph, the terms retirement system and political subdivision have the meanings given such terms in section 218(b).

    2The term “contract” and “cooperative arrangement” are defined for purposes of sections 31 U.S. Code § 6303 and 31 U.S. Code § 6305, respectively.

    3These reimbursement requirements would also apply to State agencies issuing drivers’ licenses pursuant to Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 requirements in section 205(r)(8) of the Act.

    4The terms “Indian tribe” and “tribal organization” have the same definitions given in 25 U.S. Code § 5304.

    5This section would make explicit our authority to share the full file of death information with Treasury for purposes of administering EIPs; however, under current law, SSA already has such authority and provides the Internal Revenue Service the complete file.