Report Summary

Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General

June 2009

Payments to Individuals Whose Numident Record Contains a Death Entry



To determine the appropriateness of benefits paid to individuals whose Numident record contained a date of death.


The Social Security Act requires that the Social Security Administration (SSA) match death records from various sources against SSA payment records to identify and prevent erroneous payments after death.  SSA uses the Death Alert, Control, and Update System (DACUS) to receive and process death information and record dates of death on the Numident, a data file that houses personally identifiable information for each numberholder.  DACUS was designed to ensure that all benefits to deceased beneficiaries are terminated appropriately.

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Our Findings

SSA made payments to more than 6,000 beneficiaries for months or even years after receiving notification the beneficiaries were deceased.  SSA received death reports for these beneficiaries and recorded dates of death on the Numident.  However, SSA did not record the death information on the beneficiary’s payment record or terminate benefit payments to these individuals.  Our audit results indicated that a large percentage of these beneficiaries were actually alive, and that death entries recorded on their Numidents were erroneous.  However, our audit results also indicated that a number of these beneficiaries were deceased, and that dates of death recorded on their Numidents were accurate. 

Based on our results, we estimate that SSA made approximately $40.3 million in improper payments to deceased beneficiaries after recording their date of death in SSA’s records.  Further, we estimate SSA would make approximately $6.9 million in additional improper payments over the next 12 months if these discrepancies were not corrected.

Our Recommendations

In March 2009, we obtained an updated data extract that identified 6,733 beneficiaries in current payment status whose Numident record contained a date of death.  We provided the data to SSA Operations and recommend that SSA

  1. Determine the current living status of all 6,733 beneficiaries. 
  2. Terminate benefits, recover improper payments, and refer potential instances of fraud to the Office of Investigations for all beneficiaries determined to be deceased during living status verifications. 
  3. Remove erroneous dates of death on the beneficiaries’ Numident record for all beneficiaries determined to be alive during living status verifications.
  4. Periodically identify all beneficiaries with a death indicator on their Numident receiving benefits and take action to determine the living status for these individuals.  This could be accomplished either by improving follow-up on DACUS alerts or implementing a new periodic review.

SSA agreed with recommendations 1 through 3, and partially agreed with recommendation 4.  We believe SSA’s response and planned actions adequately addressed our recommendations.