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.