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Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig leads bill to push federal agencies to prevent payments to deceased Americans

Congress has approved a temporary change allowing federal agencies to access the data starting next year but the bipartisan duo said the change should come sooner and be permanent to avoid improper payments.

Rep. Angie Craig
Angie Craig talks to attendees at a town hall meeting at Burnsville High School on Jan. 26, 2019.
Tim Nelson / MPR News

ST. PAUL — The federal government keeps timely data about Americans who die and that should be promptly shared with agencies that send out benefit payments to block improper benefits from being sent out, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig said. Craig, along with a Republican peer, is preparing to introduce a bill to require data sharing starting at the end of this year.

The Democrat representing Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District said she got interested in learning more about how the federal government tracks Americans who die after questions came up about deceased people receiving federal stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic. After talking to representatives of the Social Security Administration, she sought to understand how the agency could keep clear data for those who die and yet it doesn't always get tracked as quickly by agencies that pay out benefits to citizens.

"There's no law requiring it, that they share the data across the federal government," Craig told Forum News Service on Friday, March 24. "And you know, unfortunately, sometimes these federal agencies need a good kick in the pants to go the extra mile."

That's what Craig and Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, have proposed to lay out in law. Under their proposal, the Social Security Administration would be required to share its data with the federal government's "do not pay" system. The change could prevent billions of dollars in overpayments to deceased individuals, Craig and Meijer estimated.

In the budget year 2019, such overpayments by the federal government exceeded $175 billion, per the Government Accountability Office. That office in 2020 recommended that the Social Security Administration share the data to prevent improper payments in the future.

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And that year, Congress voted to temporarily require the data sharing on a temporary basis beginning in late 2023.

Craig said her legislation would push up the enforcement date to the end of this year and make the change permanent.

"This would require by the end of this year for at least all the death records and making sure that SSA has this integrated with the Treasury so that we just stop making these dumb mistakes," she said. "This is something that we track already at the federal government, and it just makes no good sense to me that we shouldn't expect this information to be shared across the federal government and for us to stop making it complicated."

Craig said that she and Meijer were working to find co-sponsors for the legislation prior to introducing the bill.

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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