Failure to Use Social Security’s Death Master File May Affect U.S. Crop Insurance Industry Too, U.S. Government Accountability Office Reports

Jul 29, 2013


Payments of federal crop insurance, agricultural disaster assistance and other agricultural-related safety-net benefits to deceased individuals remains a longtime issue since it was first noted in 2007, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), July 29, 2013, as part of a periodic review.

For its report, the GAO was asked to evaluate the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidance, control and appropriateness of payments issued to deceased individuals from three of its agencies-the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”), and the Risk Management Agency (“RMA”), the latter of which administers crop insurance to farmers through a network of 17 approved insurance companies.

Today’s report examines the extent to which procedures are in place to prevent (1) the FSA from making potentially improper payments to deceased individuals, (2) the NRCS from making potentially improper payments to deceased individuals, and (3) the RMA from providing potentially improper subsidies on behalf of deceased individuals.

Among the findings was that the RMA does not have existing procedures that are consistent with federal internal control standards designed to prevent potentially improper subsidies on behalf of deceased individuals.  For example, the RMA does not use the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to verify whether its policyholders have died.  

To view today’s GAO report and accompanying documents, click here.

In the 2007 report, the GAO found that from 1999 through 2005, the FSA alone paid $1.1 billion in farm payments in the names of 172,801 deceased individuals.  Recommendations were made at the time for improving the FSA’s ability to prevent these improper payments.


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