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Your Tax Dollars at Work . . . Funding the Deceased

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) released a report last week (link is to the press release, but includes link to the report) showing American taxpayer dollars were going to the dead as well as prescriptions and medical supplies prescribed by dead physicians.

The report, entitled “Federal Programs To Die For – American tax dollars sent six feet under” “exposes more than $1 billion that has been sent to the deceased in the past decade. Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.” The report says:

“In the past decade, Washington sent over $1 billion of your tax dollars to dead people.  Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.

“In some cases, these payments quietly gather in a dormant bank account. In many others, however, they land in the pockets of still-living people, who are defrauding the system by collecting benefits meant for a now-deceased relative.

"Since 2000, the known cost of these payments to over 250,000 deceased individualshas topped $1 billion, according to a review of government audits and reports by the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general, and Congress itself. This islikely only a small picture opayments to the deceased:

  • The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in stimulus funds to 71,688 dead people and $40.3 million in questionable benefit payments to 1,760 dead people.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services sent 11,000 dead people $3.9 million in assistance to pay heating and cooling costs.
  • The Department of Agriculture sent $1.1 billion in farming subsidies to deceased farmers.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development overseeing local agencies knowingly distributed $15.2 million in housing subsidies to 3,995 households with at least one deceased person.
  • Medicaid paid over $700,000 in claims for prescriptions for controlled substances written for over 1,800 deceased patients and prescriptions for controlled substances written by 1,200 deceased doctors.
  • Medicare paid as much as $92 million in claims for medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors and $8.2 million for medical supplies prescribed for dead patients.
  • Congress has established HIV/AIDS funding distribution based on historic numbers of deceased HIV/AIDS patients, while many individuals living with AIDS desperately wait for medical care.

The report concludes saying, “The fault for these federal programs sending taxpayer funds to the deceased lies primarily with Congress.  It is Congress that created and designed these federal programs, and it is Congress that must ensure its programs are properly serving the individuals they are designed to aid and are not subject to abuse, fraud, and waste. At minimum, Congress must take steps to remedy these known programs flaws.” Those four steps are:

  • Accurate Collection of Death Information
  • Policing of Agency Program Rolls
  • Heightened Monitoring of Physician Identification Numberfs
  • Proper Distribution of Federal Funds

We growled on October 28, 2010 about two unlikely allies, NTU and U.S. PIRG, who got together to identify over $600 billion of spending cuts for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. Well, Dr. Coburn’s report identifies more than $1 billion that can further reduce the federal deficit. Great work!


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