B-4412, JULY 24, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 93

B-4412: Jul 24, 1939

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SUCH CONTRACTS MAY NOT COVER CLAIMS IN WHICH THE APPLICANT IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO FURNISH PROOF OF DEATH AT HIS OWN EXPENSE FOR A PROPER ADJUDICATION OF HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. WHICHEVER IS THE LATER. WILL NECESSITATE THE COMMENCEMENT OF MONTHLY BENEFITS ON JANUARY 1. IN ORDER THAT THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD MAY PERFORM EXPEDITIOUSLY ITS DUTY OF MAKING FINDINGS OF FACT AND CERTIFICATIONS IN CASES WHERE CLAIMS ARE FILED UNDER SECTION 202. THE APPLICANT IS REQUIRED TO FURNISH PROOF OF DEATH. THIS ASSISTANCE IS GIVEN THROUGH CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE APPLICANT FROM WASHINGTON AND THE FIELD OFFICES AND THROUGH PERSONAL VISITS BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE BOARD IN THE FIELD. WHICH CERTIFICATE WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE LOCAL REGISTRAR AT THE TIME THE BURIAL PERMIT IS ISSUED AND WOULD THEN BE MAILED DIRECT BY THE LOCAL REGISTRAR TO THE BUREAU OF OLD-AGE INSURANCE.

B-4412, JULY 24, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 93

SOCIAL SECURITY - OLD AGE AND OTHER BENEFITS - DISCONTINUANCE OF PAYMENTS AND PROOF OF CLAIMS - OBTAINING OF PROOF OF DEATH AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE THE ENTERING INTO CONTRACTS BY THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD, WITHOUT ADVERTISING, WITH STATE REGISTRARS IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, TO FURNISH INFORMATION AS TO THE DEATH OF BENEFICIARIES OF THE BOARD, WOULD NOT APPEAR OBJECTIONABLE IF LIMITED IN SCOPE TO THE OBTAINING OF SUCH INFORMATION FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF DISCONTINUING PAYMENTS OF OLD AGE PENSION OR OTHER BENEFITS, BUT SUCH CONTRACTS MAY NOT COVER CLAIMS IN WHICH THE APPLICANT IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO FURNISH PROOF OF DEATH AT HIS OWN EXPENSE FOR A PROPER ADJUDICATION OF HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL BROWN TO THE CHAIRMAN, SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD, JULY 24, 1939:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 13, 1939, AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 202 (A) OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT PROVIDES:

"EVERY QUALIFIED INDIVIDUAL (AS DEFINED IN SECTION 210) SHALL BE ENTITLED TO RECEIVE, WITH RESPECT TO THE PERIOD BEGINNING ON THE DATE HE ATTAINS THE AGE OF SIXTY-FIVE, OR ON JANUARY 1, 1942, WHICHEVER IS THE LATER, AND ENDING ON THE DATE OF HIS DEATH, AN OLD-AGE BENEFIT (PAYABLE AS NEARLY AS PRACTICABLE IN EQUAL MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS) * * *"

AN AMENDMENT TO THE ACT, NOW PENDING BEFORE CONGRESS, AND WHICH SEEMS LIKELY TO BE APPROVED, WILL NECESSITATE THE COMMENCEMENT OF MONTHLY BENEFITS ON JANUARY 1, 1940. IN ORDER THAT THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD MAY PERFORM EXPEDITIOUSLY ITS DUTY OF MAKING FINDINGS OF FACT AND CERTIFICATIONS IN CASES WHERE CLAIMS ARE FILED UNDER SECTION 202, IT HAS BECOME NECESSARY THAT THE BOARD DEVISE MEANS FOR OBTAINING MORE PROMPTLY THE BEST EVIDENCE OF THE WAGE EARNER'S DEATH.

UNDER ARTICLE 308 OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD REGULATIONS NO. 2, AS AMENDED, THE APPLICANT IS REQUIRED TO FURNISH PROOF OF DEATH. EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN, HOWEVER, THAT IN MAKING THIS PROOF THE AVERAGE WAGE EARNER REQUIRES CONSIDERABLE ASSISTANCE FROM THE BUREAU OF OLD AGE INSURANCE. THIS ASSISTANCE IS GIVEN THROUGH CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE APPLICANT FROM WASHINGTON AND THE FIELD OFFICES AND THROUGH PERSONAL VISITS BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE BOARD IN THE FIELD. NOR HAS THE UTILIZATION OF CERTIFIED COPIES OF DEATH CERTIFICATES SOLVED THE PROBLEM, SINCE THESE CERTIFICATES AS A RULE CAN BE OBTAINED ONLY FROM THE STATE REGISTRAR OF VITAL STATISTICS OR FROM LOCAL REGISTRARS IN THE LARGER CITIES.

AS THE PRESENT SYSTEM HAS RESULTED IN TOO MUCH DELAY IN MAKING CERTIFICATION AND IN CONSIDERABLE EXTRA EXPENSE TO THE BOARD, A PLAN HAS BEEN DEVISED FOR UTILIZING THE EXISTING MACHINERY OF DEATH REGISTRATION IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A SHORT FORM CERTIFICATE OF DEATH (HEREIN CALLED " PROOF OF DEATH FORM") COVERING EACH DECEASED WAGE EARNER HAVING A SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT NUMBER, WHICH CERTIFICATE WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE LOCAL REGISTRAR AT THE TIME THE BURIAL PERMIT IS ISSUED AND WOULD THEN BE MAILED DIRECT BY THE LOCAL REGISTRAR TO THE BUREAU OF OLD-AGE INSURANCE.

IN ORDER TO PUT THIS PLAN INTO OPERATION IT WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD TO MAKE A CONTRACT WITH EACH STATE REGISTRAR, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, TO FURNISH THE BOARD, THROUGH THE FACILITIES OF THE OFFICES OF THE SEVERAL LOCAL REGISTRARS UNDER HIS JURISDICTION, WITH A COMPLETED PROOF OF DEATH FORM FOR EVERY WAGE EARNER HAVING A SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT NUMBER WHO DIES IN HIS STATE.

SINCE THE INFORMATION TO BE OBTAINED FROM THE COMPLETED PROOF OF DEATH FORMS IS PECULIARLY WITHIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCAL REGISTRARS, SINCE THE VITAL STATISTICS RECORDS OF EACH LOCALITY ARE NOT AS READILY ACCESSIBLE TO ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL AS THEY ARE TO THE THE SEVERAL STATE REGISTRARS, IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN THE DESIRED INFORMATION FROM ANY OTHER SOURCE THAN THROUGH CONTRACTS WITH SUCH STATE REGISTRARS.

IT WOULD APPEAR, THEREFORE, THAT THE GENERAL PROVISION CONTAINED IN SECTION 3709 OF THE REVISED STATUTES (41 U.S.C.A., SECTION 5) PROHIBITING "PURCHASES AND CONTRACTS FOR SUPPLIES OR SERVICES IN ANY OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF GOVERNMENT" EXCEPT AFTER DUE ADVERTISEMENT AND THE SUBMISSION OF COMPETITIVE BIDS THEREON, WOULD NOT APPLY IN THE INSTANT CASE BECAUSE NO PERSON OTHER THAN A STATE REGISTRAR WOULD BE IN POSITION TO SUBMIT A BID.

AS THE BOARD DESIRES TO INITIATE AT ONCE THE STEPS PRELIMINARY TO NEGOTIATING CONTRACTS OF THE FOREGOING DESCRIPTION WITH STATE REGISTRARS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES, FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 1940, YOUR ADVICE IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER THE BOARD MAY PAY THE STATE REGISTRARS FOR THE COMPLETED PROOF OF DEATH FORMS OUT OF THE GENERAL FUND PROVIDED FOR SALARIES AND EXPENSES IN THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES APPROPRIATION ACT, 1940, WITHOUT COMPLYING WITH SECTION 3709 OF THE REVISED STATUTES.

AUTHORITY FROM YOUR OFFICE FOR THIS PROPOSED EXPENDITURE SEEMS NECESSARY IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE BUREAU OF OLD-AGE INSURANCE HAS ESTIMATED THAT SOME 350,000 DEATHS OF WAGE EARNERS HAVING ACCOUNT NUMBERS WILL OCCUR DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 AND THAT THE APPROXIMATE COST OF THE PROOF OF DEATH FORMS COVERING THIS ESTIMATE WILL TOTAL $100,000.00

FOR YOUR INFORMATION THERE ARE ATTACHED (1) A COPY OF THE PROPOSED PROOF OF DEATH FORM AND (2) A STATEMENT WHICH EMBODIES ADDITIONAL DETAILS CONCERNING THE PROPOSED PLAN.

FROM THIS DETAILED STATEMENT IT CAN BE SEEN THAT THERE ARE SEVERAL IMPORTANT PURPOSES TO BE SERVED IN ADDITION TO THE IMPORTANT ONE OF ELIMINATING ANNUITANTS WHO DIE FROM THE OLD-AGE INSURANCE ROLLS. IN ORDER TO INAUGURATE THE PLAN PROPOSED, AND HAVE IT WORKING SUCCESSFULLY IN TIME TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE NEW LEGISLATION, WE SHOULD BEGIN OPERATIONS EXPERIMENTALLY IN A FEW STATES IMMEDIATELY AFTER JULY 1 IN ORDER TO DEVELOP ADEQUATE PROCEDURES, PRINT THE NECESSARY FORMS AND INSTRUCTIONS, AND PURCHASE NECESSARY SUPPLIES. IF OUR PRESENT APPROPRIATION ACT IS FOUND TO BE INADEQUATE, THE BOARD WILL BE OBLIGED TO SEEK SUPPLEMENTARY LEGAL AUTHORITY DURING THE PRESENT SESSION OF CONGRESS.

THE ENTERING INTO CONTRACTS SUCH AS REFERRED TO IN THE SUBMISSION WOULD NOT APPEAR OBJECTIONABLE IF LIMITED IN SCOPE TO OBTAINING INFORMATION AS TO THE DEATH OF BENEFICIARIES OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF DISCONTINUING PAYMENTS OF OLD-AGE PENSION OR OTHER BENEFITS, AND, IN VIEW OF THE PECULIAR NATURE OF THE SUBJECT MATTER, SUCH CONTRACTS COULD BE MADE WITHOUT ADVERTISING AS CONTEMPLATED UNDER SECTION 3709, REVISED STATUTES. IT IS UNDERSTOOD, HOWEVER, THAT THE CONTRACTS YOU PROPOSE TO MAKE WOULD NOT BE SO LIMITED BUT WOULD PROVIDE FOR THE FURNISHING OF PROOF OF DEATH IN ALL CASES REQUIRING CONSIDERATION BY THE BOARD IN WHICH DEATH MUST BE ESTABLISHED, INCLUDING CASES IN WHICH THE APPLICANT IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO FURNISH PROOF OF DEATH AT HIS OWN EXPENSE FOR A PROPER ADJUDICATION OF HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. SEE PARTICULARLY ARTICLE 308 OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD REGULATIONS NO. 2, AS AMENDED, REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER.

ACCORDINGLY, IN SPECIFIC ANSWER TO THE QUESTION YOU PRESENT, I HAVE TO ADVISE THAT THE APPROPRIATION INVOLVED IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENTS UNDER CONTRACTS SUCH AS APPARENTLY CONTEMPLATED BY YOUR SUBMISSION.