A misreading of the findings of a March 4, 2015 inspector general audit of the Social Security Administration might confuse one into thinking that a miracle of modern science had been achieved. However, the approximately 6.5 million people at or over the age of 112 who are currently listed on the Social Security rolls are instead a testament to government waste, as the inspector general identified the fact that SSA lacks the ability to effectively purge likely-deceased people with unrealistic ages from its lists. “We obtained Numident [Social Security’s numerical identification system] data that identified approximately 6.5 million numberholders born before June 16, 1901 who did not have a date of death on their record,” said the report.
Consequently, these accounts are sometimes being used fraudulently to open bank accounts or apply for jobs. CNS News notes that the report on the audit said, “During Calendar Years 2008 through 2011, SSA received 4,024 E-Verify inquiries using the SSNs of 3,873 numberholders born before June 16, 1901… These inquiries indicate individuals’ attempts to use the SSNs to apply for work.” According to The Washington Post, a person identified in the audit was able to open bank accounts under Social Security numbers associated with people born in 1869 and 1893.
“It is simply unacceptable that our nation’s database of Social Security numbers of supposedly living people includes more than six and a half million people who are older than 112 years of age, with a few thousand having birth dates from before the Civil War. Preventing agency errors by keeping track of who has died is a relatively simple problem that the government should pursue as a high priority,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE).
The Washington Post notes that Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said, “It is incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead.”
The inspector general recommended four steps that the Social Security Administration could take to improve its Death Master File, but administrators with SSA responded to the recommendations by saying, “The recommendations would create a significant manual and labor-intensive workload and provide no benefit to the administration of our programs.”