PEORIA — U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos is re-launching her effort to halt federal payments to dead people.
The Moline Democrat, who represents part of Peoria and Tazewell counties, introduced legislation earlier this week to give all federal agencies access to the Social Security Administration's master death file.
"They have those records pretty much in real time, but they're not shared" with other agencies in their full form because of longstanding policy, Bustos said.
Because those other agencies don't always have timely notification of individuals' deaths, payments can continue to go out from agencies like the Department of Agriculture, or through Medicare or elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services, Bustos said, citing a few among many offices that don't have access to the data. Many receive a reduced, delayed version of the list instead.
"It's a piece of information that's very important to make sure that there are proper payments made," she said of the complete list.
Audits have shown $144 billion in improper payments annually from the feds, with some of that going to deceased people.
Bustos had introduced a similar bill during the last congressional session, but it didn't get traction then. The new measure mirrors the old language.
"What I've learned in my short time in Congress is that perseverance can be rewarded," she said.
This time, her co-sponsor is U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.. He serves on the House Oversight Committee, one of two committees the legislation was sent to for hearings last time. Identical legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The bill would also require the federal Office of Management and Budget to develop ways to work with state and local governments to improve sharing of federal data with them as well.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.