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It’s Hard to Find the Dead
Not even the smallest of business owners enjoys a business glitch. A product is defective, a customer with the same problem over and over again, or an employee causing problems on a consistent basis can bring on severe headaches. This is also true for financial accounting software, especially when it comes time for annual tax returns and your tax professional can’t seem to make sense of anything you’ve printed out from the program.
In almost every case (I’d bet at least), accounting mistakes or glitches are on the part of the one making journal entries such as being inaccurate, inexperienced or not able to operate the software correctly. Sure there are times when hardware and software do what they want to do, not what we want them to, but for the most part, the well-known accounting software programs can do the job.
When it comes to the U.S. Government and their payroll accounting software for retired government employees, they do have a problem. In fact, according to Sam Hananel of the Associated Press, a $600 million error of benefits was paid to dead government workers.
The $600 million dollar error wasn’t just discovered yesterday either. They’ve known about these errors in benefit checks since 2005—yep you read it right, the year two-thousand ought five! According to the Associated Press article, the Office of Personnel Management “has been aware of the problem since a 2005 inspector general’s report revealed defects in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund.” Even more surprising, “…the improper payments have continued, despite more than a half-dozen attempts to develop a system that can figure out which beneficiaries are still alive and which are dead.”
Right off the bat here, I must say the problem itself could lie within who these inspectors work for. If they are also indeed “government employees” they will someday be “retired employees” and then “dead government workers” so these attempts to fix the glitches is probably not forefront on their to-do list.
I also have a problem with why they can’t develop a system to see who has kicked the bucket and is now lying in a cemetery or sitting in an urn somewhere on a mantle. Anyone with a PC, Apple or even iPad can go to Ancestry.com and search the Social Security Index—I found my father’s record with only his first and last name and place of death in about one second (see screenshot at right).
It’s true Ancestry does want you to sign up for the program or shove out dough for records, or you can buy two Social Security Index CDs (one for A-M and the other from N-Z,) but why the government can’t keep track of dead people is beyond me! Kudos to Ancestry here. II actually used this software when it was better known as “Family Tree Maker.”
Type in Marion Morrison (aka John Wayne) and you can find him. Try looking for one Francis Albert Sinatra and you’ll find him too. Or, type in the name of your Great Aunt Sally and you’ll find her too.
I’m guessing the U.S. Government could learn a lot from the people behind Ancestry.com—but really folks, where do you think Ancestry.com obtains their database? I don’t think they walk cemeteries or knock on doors and say, “Hey has anyone in your family died recently? Did they work for the government? Really OK, now what was their social security number, what branch did they work for and where are they buried?” I should point out here the $600 million dollar error also included disabled government workers.
- slide 2 of 2
So, most of you are probably wondering how the glitch error was even discovered. I really wish I could nail down the exact date, but all I could find on the Web was the year 2005. However, way back in 2008, a man passed (God bless his soul) and somehow the government found out he had received around $515,000—all benefits meant for his father who had died himself in 1971! Yes folks, that’s year nineteen aught seventy one—or 37 years the son received ineligible benefits for his deceased dad.
I have a problem here folks and it’s a big one. The U.S. Government is $14 trillion dollars in debt. The U.S. Postal Service better come up with around $5.5 billion or so by the end of this month (that’s tomorrow) or they’ll have to make some large cuts with many affecting workers and process stations.
Our great government and those we elected to run it also said it couldn’t afford FEMA or emergency funds for fellow countrymen (and women and children) who were affected by fires, floods or other natural disasters, and they are simply running out of money (no kidding).
Medicare and Social Security benefits are too-often threatened making those who truly need (and deserve) them live in fear on a daily basis. But no, no, no, not one government leader had any ideas on how to find out which government workers were dead or alive. My goodness people, this is mind-blowing really, isn’t it?
Top financial blogger The Consumerist (aka Ben Popken) blogged about the AP story and said, “The inspector general laid out 14 recommendations for fixing the holes in the system. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says they've already adopted 10 of the proposals. Some of the methods include cross-referencing their database with Social Security death records, checking out tax records, and speeding up death reporting.”
What? These are our tax dollars funding this accounting software glitch and these top shots have received 14 recommendations for “fixing the holes in the system” and thought 10 were great but just can’t totally decide? Fear not fellow Americans, again according to blogger Ben Popken, “they are making it a top priority.”
I need help understanding all of this, I really do. And, it’s embarrassing. Even former Cuban leader Fidel Castro called President Obama “stupid” today according to report by CNN after the President slammed Cuban policies to Hispanic Journalists. Castro, always the dictator, said of the U.S. economy, "Perhaps that empire will collapse first.”
This is now really scary—a slam by Castro on how well we are handling our money or should I say the managing and allocation of that money. Do we owe Cuba any bucks? Hmmm?
Each and every day, one stupid comment or another comes out of one of our political leader’s mouths or those who want the top job, such as Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. The two main political parties in this great country we call home can’t even agree on anything because they’d rather fight, disagree and call each other names.
I must say, as a business owner, if I had found a $515,000 mistake, I’d have to answer to my bank, my franchisor, and my business partner—and fast. I’d have no time to decide on a new policy, implement it, and “make the tax payers a top priority.” No siree. I’d have to pull an all-nighter and either find the $515,000 mistake or if indeed the payouts were really made, find a way to get it back ASAP!
However, the government doesn’t work that way, folks and it is sad really. What do you think about this debacle? Or, are you a government retiree or disabled worker receiving benefits you shouldn’t be receiving? You can drop me a comment under the name “anonymous.”
After all, the government will take its time and it will be years before you’re discovered; actually it’s probably better if you are discovered once you’re dead because your family will be racking in the dough.
If you think this is the craziest thing since Michelle Obama shopping at Target (no one recognized her except the cashier—sure, people, like the Secret Service wasn’t even there), then drop me a note and let’s discuss this accounting software mess-up.
- Hananel, Sam Associated Press (ABC News) “Gov’t Paid $600 Million in Benefits to Dead People” September 23, 2011.
- Ancestry.com – Social Security Death Index
- Popken, Ben – The Consumerist Blog September 28, 2011.
- Image Credits:
Screenshot SS Death Index Look Up by author via Ancestry
- Darlington, Shasta – CNN “Castro Calls Obama Stupid, Slams Cuba Policy" September 29, 2011.