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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 28, 2019 3 months ago

Elected official aims to turn off money-to-dead people faucet

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U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota wants to save the federal government some money.

It pays to be dead.

At least for the millions of deceased people nationwide who, together, received some $1 billion in federal benefits in 2018, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office. Most of those payments to the deceased came from Social Security and Medicare payments.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is the latest of elected official to try to turn off the money-to-dead people faucet. He introduced a bill in D.C. in late May, the Valid Benefits Act, which would require federal agencies to verify eligibility for benefits for individuals 105 years or older, beginning in 2021. “We spent $1 billion on this,” Steube tells Coffee Talk. “And that was in 2018 alone. When you think about it, it’s kind of crazy.”

Adds Steube in a statement: “With this bill, heads of federal agencies and departments will be required to verify that those they are giving benefits to are, in fact, alive.”

Others have tried — and failed — to reel in posthumous payouts. In one example, U.S, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and John Kennedy, R-La., co-sponsored the “Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act" of 2017. That bill, like a similar one in 2015, failed to get a committee hearing, according to a report in The Center Square, a Tallahassee political news site formerly connected with Watchdog Florida. Those bills would have provided federal agencies access to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, the most up-to-date national database available for death records.

Steube says he never heard of those bills, and wrote his is legislation — at one page — to be simple. “It shouldn’t be hard to require departments to check if someone is alive before you give them a check,” he says.

Through late June the Valid Benefits Act hadn’t picked up any co-sponsors, had no companion bill in the Senate and no hearings were scheduled on it. Steube says that’s partially due to being a minority in the House in a hyper-partisan town, but he hopes the common-sense approach of the bill will soon appeal to others.

“As our national debt increases,” Steube says, “we should be vigilant in finding ways we could rein that in.”  

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