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SSA paying dead people and paying live people it lists as dead

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 24, 2013 - 5:17 PM

The Social Security Administration has paid more than $30 million since 2009 to 1,542 people its records list as dead. At least one person was paid monthly for amost 20 years after death.

It has a date of death recorded for an additional 879 people who appear to still be going about the business of life by renewing their drivers licenses, getting married and the like.

These were the findings of the Office of the Inspector General for the SSA that studied data from May 2012, according to a report released Monday.

In the 1,542 cases of likely deaths, the SSA received death certificates and had recorded dates of death for the individuals. But for one reason or another, the death information did not make it to the individuals' payment records, causing payments to continue.

As part of the OIG's audit, the office performed public record searches of 30 randomly-selected individuals who were still receiving benefits though a date of death was included in their SSA records. Of those, 10 people had "post-death activity," the report stated.

Another 50 people who were being paid and had a date of death on record were victims of a clerical error that assigned the wrong social security number to their file.

The OIG recommended the SSA double check the office's findings or risk overpaying another $15 million in benefits over the next 12 months, and the SSA agreed to take steps to cut down on errors. The SSA said it has implemented a system, called the Death Alert Tracking System to identify potential problems. Field officers would then follow up on cases flagged by the system.

The administration said it is improving its death entry process to make sure death information gets placed on both the individual's record as well as that of any beneficiaries such as spouses.

Highway 5 rumble strips have Victoria, MN residents grumbling

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 17, 2013 - 11:55 AM
Ron Featherston talks about the rumble strips recently installed on Hwy. 5 in Victoria, Minn.

Ron Featherston talks about the rumble strips recently installed on Hwy. 5 in Victoria, Minn.

On Sunday Whistleblower wrote about a neighborhood having to deal with a new noise: Rumble strips installed on a nearby highway. To join the discussion go to the original article or post below.
 
The Victoria man sat in a lawn chair in his driveway, counting. WHAP! One. WHAP! Two. An hour later he had a tally of how many times motorists on nearby Hwy. 5 had passed over the rumble strip installed on the center line last year as a tool to enhance highway safety.
 
Extrapolating, Ron Featherston estimates that he and his neighbors are audibly reminded of Hwy. 5’s existence about 240 to 300 times a day. A decibel meter placed in one back yard spiked to twice the level of normal highway noise at times, Featherston said.
 
The noise produced when a car passes over the strip interrupts nearby residents’ sleep, ruins back-yard activities and has “at least one family ... preparing to sell their home because of the never-ending barrage,” Featherston said.
 
The neighbors are now fighting to have the noisemakers removed.
 
The strips were installed during a 20-mile-long Hwy. 5 resurfacing project. They are part of a mandate to install centerline rumble strips on all rural, undivided 55-mile-per-hour state highways as they are built or worked on. Roads of this type see more than their share of serious cross-the-centerline crashes that result in deaths or serious injuries, a MnDOT memo stated, and the strips are meant to alert motorists who may be straying.
 
On Hwy. 5 between Chanhassen and Norwood Young America, 20 miles of which were resurfaced last year, there were 1.6 crashes per million vehicle miles traveled between 2001 and 2005, slightly higher than the state average of 1.3 for the same type of road.
 
Safety was the buzzword in the run-up to the project. MnDOT held meetings with county and city officials and stressed safety goals.
 
“Our highest priority is public safety,” said the mayor of Victoria, Tom O’Connor who, in the position of councilman last year, voted for the rumble strips when MnDOT asked for the council’s input. “Considering the safety considerations it seemed like the right decision.”
 
But if you drill down to the neighborhood level, the segment of highway that slides past Featherston’s neighborhood has fewer crashes than the rest of the stretch. In a five-year period there were two head-on collisions and one sideswipe involving vehicles going in opposite directions. Featherston said he believes one of those involved a drunken driver. “A rumble strip is not going to sober somebody up,” he said.
 
A federal report cites a study that found that when rumble strips end more than 650 feet short of a residential area, noise levels are tolerable.
 
Taken by surprise
At just about the time road resurfacing began in earnest in late May 2012, Cara Geheren, an engineer under contract by the city to review construction issues, sent a letter to residents mentioning various aspects of the project, including rumble strips. The city conducted a number of meetings.
 
“But there were so many details associated with the project that I don’t think rumbles ever came to the forefront. People were so concerned about the fact that the highway was going to be closed for such a long period of time,” Geheren said.
 
In a council meeting two months later, when Geheren gave a project update, the council debated rumble strips and voted to approve them despite the engineer’s recommendation that they don’t.
 
During the discussion, Geheren mentioned a handful of reasons for not giving rumbles a thumbs up: Past crashes may not have been deterred by a center strip, there were at least 40 residential properties that back up to the highway, likely making that segment urban and not under MnDOT’s mandate, and the road curves at that point.
 
“When you’re coming around a curve, cars can drift a little bit, not because they’re being careless, but just because they’re on a curve,” Geheren told Whistleblower on Friday.
 
In a later meeting, Featherston’s neighbor Brad Johnson complained to the council that residents were not given an opportunity to be heard before the vote.
 
Geheren set up a meeting for Monday. MnDOT will present its results from a rumble frequency study it conducted and will “solicit input,” according to a letter to residents. The study showed that the rumble strips are driven over as often as six times per hour.
 
The input will be presented to the council later this month and the council will make one of four recommendations to the state. “If the City Council tells us that the [strips] need to be removed, then we’ll probably remove them,” said Kevin Gutknecht, communications director for MnDOT.
 
“I didn’t appreciate how vehement the outcry was going to be,” O’Connor said, but he worries about removing the strips and having a subsequent crash. “That’s my worst nightmare.”
 
For his part, Featherston is happy to know that his concerns will be heard.
 

Consumer complaint data searchable by state

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: June 17, 2013 - 10:46 AM

 

A database of consumer complaints to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been recently expanded to make it searchable by state. It also added complaints about money transfers and credit reporting to existing categories including credit cards, mortgages, student and consumer loans, bank accounts and services.

 

The database, which currently has about 113,000 listings, can be searched, sorted and downloaded, though it provides little detail about individual complaints. It is updated nightly.

There are currently 1,526 complaints by Minnesotans in the database.

To view the database, click here.

To submit a complaint of your own, go to consumerfinance,gov/Complaint. A complaint is added to the database only after a company responds or after 15 days, whichever comes sooner.

Contest brings ideas to curb robocalling

Posted by: Jane Friedmann Updated: April 3, 2013 - 6:15 PM

Two people will share a $50,000 prize for the best ideas in a “Robocalling Challenge” that sought technological cures to the plague of incessant automated calls, the Federal Trade Commission said this week.

The FTC, which fields about 200,000 robocalling complaints monthly, chose the entries by Serdar Danis Aaron Foss from more than 800 submitted.
 
Danis suggested software that would block robocalls. Foss proposed a solution that would use a second phone line to screen and hang up on robocalls.
 
Two engineers from Google, Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson, won a non-monetary award for suggesting “automated algorithms” to identify spam calls.
 
The FTC said it’s now up to the private sector to bring the ideas to the marketplace. The FTC has posted the three winning ideas on its website and has a link to all 800 submissions.
 
Commentors on the website lament the lack of detail in the proposals and say that the ideas are not new or are already in existence as real products. One commentor said that the full details of each plan are lodged with the FTC.
 

Crosswalk gets new stripe, pothole included

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: May 20, 2011 - 9:44 AM

 

 

Spotted on 4th Street South in Minneapolis: the striping crew didn't let an unfixed pothole get in the way of its work. If the pothole gets fixed, will the painters have to come back?

 

 

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