Veterans' Benefits:

VA Needs Death Information From Social Security to Avoid Erroneous Payments

T-HRD-90-28: Published: May 18, 1990. Publicly Released: May 18, 1990.

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GAO discussed the need for the Veterans Administration (VA) to obtain death information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to avoid erroneous payments to the accounts of deceased beneficiaries. GAO found that: (1) SSA receives voluntarily reported death information from many sources and purchases death certificate information from states; (2) federal agencies offering benefit programs are authorized to obtain information; (3) VA could identify beneficiaries who are reported as deceased by using SSA death information; (4) annual erroneous payments to deceased beneficiaries amounted to at least $5.7 million; (5) VA pays compensation and pension benefits to about 227,000 beneficiaries who do not have social security numbers on file; (6) VA may be paying survivors benefits to deceased beneficiaries because of the way it maintains its records; and (6) VA did not match its payment records with additional SSA information because SSA restricted its use of the data. GAO believes that: (1) VA should acquire and use SSA death information; and (2) VA should be able to require, as a condition of eligibility, social security numbers for either its compensation or protected pension programs.

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