Death Does Not Mean Parting From Government Payments

When the first line of the story reads: "The federal government pays out millions to dead people each year," you know you are on to something. In this case, something is continued annuity payments to federal workers who have moved on to the ultimate retirement in the sky.

And when the dollar amount is more than $600 million in five years, we’re talking about more than a few mistakes. The Washington Post has the story; here’s a recap.

Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland, who previously reported on the improper payments in 2005 and 2008, urged the Office of Personnel Management to more closely track such mistakes.

“It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money,” he wrote in the report.

Improper payments to dead retirees increased 70 percent in the past five years, far higher than the 19 percent climb in overall annuity payments, the report said.

The payments are on the rise because OPM is doing a poor job of tracking potential cheats, McFarland said. In one case, a deceased annuitant’s son continued receiving federal benefits until 2008 — 37 years after his father’s death. OPM learned about the improper payments — which exceeded $515,000 — only after the son died. The agency never recovered the money.

Last October, an investigation by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) concluded that the government had paid nearly $1 billion to at least 250,000 dead people since 2000. That same month, a watchdog group reported that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program had made 89,000 payments of $250 each to dead or incarcerated people. 

Stimulus Money Went Where? for What?

When federal government spending is involved, there is almost certain to be some questionable uses. According to a report from senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, there are more than a few such examples in the $862 billion stimulus plan.

The following and more are included in their report:

  • Nearly $2 million to photograph ants
  • More than $550,000 to replace windows in a closed visitors center
  • Replacing a 5-year-old sidewalk with a new sidewalk that leads to a ditch

You get the idea. Sure, there is some politics involved here. But the examples of misappropriated or mismanaged funds do speak loudly. Remember, it’s all about jobs — or at least it is supposed to be.

Here’s the report, Summertime Blues (for taxpayers).

Coburn Slices Wasteful Spending in 2008 Report

No matter your political leanings, you’ll likely find this report by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, 2008: Worst Waste of the Year, to be worth perusing. He basically takes government to task for what he perceives to be a national barrage of pork. Many of these programs are laughable, while some might be defendable depending upon your perspective.

Here’s an example:

First Tee Program – South Carolina ($3 million)

Kids around the nation will be invited to learn and appreciate the game of golf through a $3 million grant from the Pentagon to First Tee. First Tee is a non‐profit organization that was founded to bring underprivileged youth off the streets and onto the golf course. When one member of Congress responsible for arranging the grant was asked what childhood golf had to do with the military, he responded that golf “helps you make generals and colonels.”

I remember hearing about this one when it earned Rep. James Clyburn (South Carolina) a nomination for the Citizens Against Government Waste’s Porker of the Year Award. I must agree that there are some holes in the logic. For starters, I played quite a bit of golf as a youngster (in the converted cornfields of Boone County, not fancy golf with sand traps and such), and I’m hardly qualified to lead an army of ants, let alone becoming a general or colonel. Nor did it teach me about decorum as I was a known club-thrower, and I learned little about finishing what I start as I became a master of the four-foot gimme.

Worst of all, I never actually became good at golf, which led to a poor self image (frowny face).

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Chase Downham for passing the report along.