WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) led a bipartisan, common sense effort to curb improper payments to deceased individuals and potentially save the government from wastefully spending billions of dollars in taxpayer money. The Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancement (IPACE) Act, introduced today by Bustos, would provide agencies with the tools needed to improve agency coordination on anti-waste and fraud efforts and curb billions of dollars in improper and unnecessary payments to deceased individuals. Bustos was joined in her efforts today by fellow No Labels’ Problem Solver Republican Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) and around 50 other members of the House of Representatives.
“Each year, the federal government makes millions of dollars in improper payments to deceased individuals, wasting taxpayer money while nothing is done to solve the problem,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “This is unacceptable, and is why today I’ve joined with my fellow No Labels’ Problem Solver Congressman Chris Gibson to put forth a bipartisan, common sense plan to improve agency coordination and cut down on waste and fraud. Our reasonable approach to saving taxpayer money is long overdue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in curbing these improper payments once and for all.”
“Especially in these trying economic times, it is imperative that we allocate federal dollars carefully and only to those who most need assistance. This legislation protects taxpayers’ money by ensuring federal agencies share information and keep records up to date in order to reduce improper payments that waste taxpayer money,” said Congressman Chris Gibson. “I’m proud to join with Congresswoman Bustos to introduce this bipartisan bill. She is a leader in No Labels with me and this bill is a result of the friendship we’ve developed in the group and our joint support for moving forward with common-sense ideas that can unite our parties, rather than divide.”
Each year, federal payments are erroneously made to individuals who are deceased and should obviously no longer be eligible under program rules. This issue was recently highlighted in a Washington Post article. Examples of past improper payments for deceased individuals include:
· A total of $601 million in improper payments were made from 2006 to 2010 to federal retirees later found to have already died;
· More than $1 billion in farm program payments to farmers who were dead for more than three years; and
· Medicare prescription drug plans were paid approximately $3.6 million for drugs provided to 1500 dead beneficiaries.
Improper payments are largely caused by inadequate sharing among federal agencies of death data managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA maintains the Death Master File (DMF), which contains the most complete information on who has died. However, most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete version of the DMF. For example, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Agriculture and Labor do not have access to the complete DMF.
The IPACE Act would take several steps to improve the information that is available to federal agencies including:
- Making sure all federal agencies have access to the complete Death Master File database;
- Requiring government agencies to use this database to curb improper payments;
- Improving procedures to better facilitate the sharing of data about instances of death among federal agencies; and
- Sharing best practices among agencies for identifying deceased recipients.
The Senate version of the IPACE Act (S.1360) was introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).
Since taking office, Bustos has advocated strongly for bipartisan, common sense approaches to cutting unnecessary government spending. Bustos introduced the Government Transformation Act in July that would cut duplicative services and root out waste in government while protecting the priorities of middle class Illinoisans. This bill was incorporated into No Labels’ “Make Government Work” legislative rollout, and the Senate companion version of the bill was introduced by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. The first bill Bustos introduced as a Member of Congress was the Government Waste Reduction Act, which is also a common sense bill that attacks government waste and helps ensure government programs are more economical, efficient, and effective.