Date: August 19, 2016
Senate Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs Reports S. 1073,
Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act
On April 23, 2015, Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced S. 1073, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. On July 29, 2015, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ordered the bill reported, and on May 9, 2016, the Committee reported out the bill with amendments. Among other things, the bill would amend section 205(r) of the Social Security Act to permit SSA to share the full file of death information through the Do Not Pay (DNP) portal1 established by the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 (IPERIA). The bill now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.
S. 1073, as amended, includes the following provisions of interest to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Distribution of Death Information Furnished to or Maintained by the Social Security Administration2
- Would require the Commissioner, when reimbursing States for death information, to include not only the costs of transmitting the data but also the costs of ensuring the “completeness, timeliness and accuracy” of that information.
- Would require the Commissioner, to the extent feasible, to provide our complete file of death information with Federal and State agencies providing federally funded benefits (and those agencies’ Inspectors General), including the agency operating the DNP system, for purposes of preventing improper payments.3
- 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. Would also provide that the Commissioner may share this death information only if doing so does not conflict with the other duties of the Commissioner.
- Would further require the Commissioner to share death information with Federal agencies for the following purposes:
- To operate the DNP system;
- To ensure proper payments under a Federal program or the proper payment of federally funded benefits, including payment certification, payment disbursement, and the prevention, identification and recoupment of improper payments;
- To carry out tax administration or debt collection duties of an agency; and,
- To be used by Federal policing agencies whose principle function is preventing, detecting or investigating crime or apprehending offenders.
- Would permit the Commissioner to share death information with the States for their use in the administration of State pension plans, as well as for the purposes listed in the preceding bullet.
- Would permit the Commissioner to share death information with Federal and State agencies for statistical and research activities.4
- Would sunset all these provisions 5 years after enactment and reestablish the current law provisions of section 205(r). Congress would have to act in order to extend these provisions.
- Would make technical corrections to the Internal Revenue Code.
- Would require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), not later than 4 years after enactment, to report to Congress on potential alternative sources of death data maintained by non-Federal sources for use by Federal agencies and programs.5 This report would also include the Director’s recommendation as to whether the provisions that would sunset 5 years after enactment should be made permanent.
Improving the Use of Data by Government Agencies to Curb Improper Payments
- Would require OMB:
- Within 6 months of enactment, issue guidance for each agency that operates or maintains a database of information on beneficiaries, annuitants, or others for which improved matching of death information would be relevant and necessary regarding access to death databases;
- Within 1 year of enactment, issue a plan to assist State and local agencies and Indian tribes and tribal organization in providing death records to the Federal governments;
- Not later than 270 days after enactment, submit to Congress a plan to improve how State and local agencies and Indian tribes and tribal organizations that provide benefits under a federally-funded program will improve data matching with the Federal government with respect to the deaths of beneficiaries of those programs; and,
- Not later than 1 year after enactment, and for each of the 4 succeeding years, submit to Congress a report on the implementation of the requirements above.
Plan for Ensuring the Accuracy and Completeness of Death Data Maintained and Distributed by SSA
- Not later than 1 year after enactment, the Commissioner would be required to submit to Congress a plan to improve the accuracy and completeness of the death data maintained and distributed by SSA.
- The plan would be required to include:
- A procedure for identifying individuals who are still alive and are older than the oldest known living person according to the records of SSA;
- Improved policies and procedures for:
- Identifying individuals listed as dead who are actually alive;
- Identifying individual 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 errors in the Numident;
- A process for using statistical analysis of the death data maintained by SSA to determine an estimate of the number of erroneous records; and,
- Recommendations for legislation.
Report on Information Security
- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment, the Commissioner would be required to submit a report to the Committees on Ways and Means, Oversight and Government Reform, and Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committees on Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate identifying all information systems of SSA containing sensitive information and describing the measures the Commissioner is taking to secure and protect such information systems.
- Unless stated otherwise, would require all provisions to be effective upon enactment.
1 The Do Not Pay portal provides users a single entry point for multiple data sources online, and allows Federal agencies to check these sources before making payments or awards in order to prevent fraud and improper payments.
2 Under current law, we already share non-State death information with the Do Not Pay portal, and our full file of death information with Federal and State agencies administering federally funded benefits. We also have authority to share death information with Federal and State agencies for research and statistical purposes.
3 S. 614, the Federal Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015 , became P.L. 114-109 and provides that Federal agencies must review, as appropriate, the “death records maintained by the Commissioner” to verify eligibility of a Federal payment or award. However, this law did not amend section 205(r) to provide us the necessary statutory authority to provide all death records—including State records—to DNP. This bill would provide such authority.
4 For purposes of this paragraph, “statistical purposes” means the “description, estimation, or analysis of the characteristics of groups, without identifying the individuals or organizations that comprise such groups; and includes the development, implementation, or maintenance of methods, technical or administrative procedures, or information resources that support those purposes,” as defined in section 502 of the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002.
5 The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems is working to fully implement the Electronic Verification of Vital Events, or EVVE system, which will eventually provide customers with the ability to quickly, reliably, and securely verify and certify birth and death records.