Bipartisan bills offered in Congress (S-2374 and HR-4929) would expand the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act by widening access by agencies and IG offices to the SSA’s death records database.

That is the most complete database of deaths the federal government maintains, but “only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information. In addition, most inspectors general lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased,” the sponsors said in announcing the bill.

Currently, only agencies that directly manage programs making beneficiary payments have access to complete death data, they said. The act will allow all agencies access for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health and would require that they make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments.

The legislation also would establish procedures to ensure more accurate death data, for example by requiring the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals. That follows recommendations of a 2015 IG report that found 6.5 million persons were listed as being older than 112 and still alive.