Social Security Administration: Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Social Security Administration's (SSA) procedures for handling and verifying death reports may allow for erroneous death information in the Death Master File (DMF) because SSA does not verify certain death reports or record others. SSA officials said, in keeping with its mission, the agency is primarily focused on ensuring that it does not make benefit payments to deceased Social Security program beneficiaries. As a result, it only verifies death reports received for individuals who are current program beneficiaries, and even then, only for those reports received from ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. May 8, 2013.

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Social Security Administration's (SSA) procedures for handling and verifying death reports may allow for erroneous death information in the Death Master File (DMF) because SSA does not verify certain death reports or record others. SSA officials said, in keeping with its mission, the agency is primarily focused on ensuring that it does not make benefit payments to deceased Social Security program beneficiaries. As a result, it only verifies death reports received for individuals who are current program beneficiaries, and even then, only for those reports received from sources it considers to be less accurate. For example, SSA officials consider death reports from states that have pre-verified decedents' name and SSN to be highly accurate, so SSA does not verify that the subjects of these reports are actually deceased. It would, however, verify a report received from a source such as a post office. SSA verifies no death reports for individuals who are not beneficiaries, regardless of source. Because there are a number of death reports that SSA does not verify, the agency risks including incorrect death information in the DMF, such as including living individuals in the file or not including deceased individuals. Specifically, for death reports that are not verified, SSA would not know with certainty if the individuals are correctly reported as dead. SSA also does not record some deaths because incorrect or incomplete information included in death reports generally prevents SSA from matching decedents to SSA records. For example, if SSA is unable to match a death report to data in its records such as name and Social Security Number (SSN), it generally does not follow up to correct the non-match and does not record the death."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • May 8, 2013

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Social Security Administration: Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File, text, May 8, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301018/: accessed July 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.