March 11, 1998 in Nation/World

Study Finds States Still Issuing Food Stamps To Dead People

Larry Lipman Cox News Service

Dead people by the tens of thousands are still getting food stamps, according to a government report issued Tuesday.

The study found that 25,881 deceased individuals in four states - Florida, Texas, New York and California - were issued food stamps during 1995 and 1996, a loss to the government of $8.5 million, according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Of the four states selected for the study - they account for about 35 percent of the food stamp recipients nationwide - New York had the highest number of dead people on foods stamps, nearly 12,000, followed by Texas with 6,465 and Florida with 5,794.

California, which provides cash instead of food stamps to elderly people receiving Supplemental Security Income, had the lowest total at 1,646.

The average deceased food stamp beneficiary remained on the rolls for four months, but the study found 177 cases in which beneficiaries remained on the rolls for the entire two years, and 20 cases in which dead people were issued benefits in more than one state.

In some cases, benefits were paid to multi-person households that may have claimed a dead person as part of the family when it applied for benefits, or failed to report that a family member died while receiving benefits.

In cases where the deceased individual lived alone, the food stamps were issued to a person designated as the deceased individual’s authorized representative or to a person posing as the dead beneficiary.

The report recommended that instead of states attempting to reconcile their food stamp rolls with locally produced death lists, they rely on the Social Security Administration’s death master file - which includes information on people who may have lived in one state but died in another.

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which requested the GAO study, introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the Social Security Administration to share information from its death master file with the states.

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