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Thursday, September 29, 2016

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the federal government paid up to $36 million in farm subsidies to dead people between 2008 and 2012.

In a 25-page report titled “USDA Needs to Do More to Prevent Improper Payments to Deceased Individuals,” the GAO determined that several U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies “do not have procedures in place consistent with federal internal control standards to prevent potentially improper subsidies on behalf of deceased individuals.” Among other findings, the GAO determined:

—The USDA’s Risk Management Agency paid up to $22 million in subsidies and allowances on behalf of an estimated 3,434 program policyholders two or more years after death;
—The USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service made an estimated $10.6 million in payments on behalf of 1,103 deceased individuals one year or more after death;
—The USDA’s Farm Service Agency paid $3.3 million in benefits to thousands of deceased individuals, of which it has managed to recover approximately $1 million.

The wasted money was part of the USDA’s $20 billion annual spending on federal programs that support farm income, conserve natural resources, and help farmers manage risks from natural disasters.

The GAO’s report comes at a politically sensitive time, as Congress prepares to negotiate a new trillion-dollar farm bill. The process has been tense and divisive thus far; House Speaker John Boehner’s initial efforts to pass the bill resulted in a humiliating defeat due to House Republicans’ insistence that it did not cut enough from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Boehner later passed a farm bill that left the agricultural subsidies — including those that have apparently been paid to dead people — intact, while dropping food stamps and nutrition programs altogether.

Although the $36 million in wasted subsidies is a relative drop in the bucket considering the overall size of the bill, it could be a consequential political symbol. Republicans have repeatedly cited fraud as a reason to cut SNAP — even though error rates in the program are actually at an all-time low — raising the question of why they are not raising similar concerns about agricultural subsidies.

Even if House Republicans won’t question the legitimacy of the subsidies, the GAO will. Its report pointedly questions “whether these farm safety net programs are benefiting the agricultural sector as intended.”

The full GAO report can be read here.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    How could someone get away with this?

    Once you die, the funeral parlor that does your funeral is mandated by law to report your death to Social Security. Your SS Number is used as a identifier for all major programs to prove who you are.

    Once you’re dead, that number is never used again and is taken out of all databanks that use that number which would probably include these farm agencies.

    • sunmusing

      It’s called “corporate corruption”…

  • charleo1

    It’s just one intolerable stacked atop another intolerable, until I’m numb.
    I’ve literally ran out of indignant anger, exhausted my exasperation, and
    still they continue. Who are these people, and why are they in Congress?
    And what would it take at this point to be able to say, they have now hit
    rock bottom?

  • Dominick Vila

    Problems like this have more to do with our insistence to protect loopholes and subsidies than government inefficiencies. Why should oil companies, mining companies, transportation companies, and other sectors of our economy, including farmers like Michele Bachmann, receive subsidies paid for by taxpayers when their businesses are profitable and growing? If they don’t know how to make a buck, they don’t deserve to be in business.

  • docb

    Hmmm Ad how many BILLIOBS are we giving BIg Corps like Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, etc that are KILLING PEOPLE and FARMS ALL OVER THE WORLD? This is a minor accounting blimp while subsidizing these big corporations that destroy the land, steal the water, and bring GMO seeds and products..Stop that and we would be getting somewhere!

  • idamag

    And they yammer about food stamps and the so-called 47%.

    • Mark Forsyth

      Without champions who won’t be bought off,we are easy targets.What is needed are people who are ready to do the right thing without regard or reservations about political careers.Seems to me that there ought to be enough enraged people of all political persuasions to unite under a common cause with a mandate to eliminate and correct these abuses.Even if a movement like that were to ultimately fail,it would still be better than doing nothing.

  • Pamby50

    They want to cut out food stamps for everyone and yet they have no problem spending millions of dollars on farmers who don’t need it. Either their farms are doing well enough or as we are finding out dead. I sure hope that the ones who didn’t repay the money have been charged with fraud. Let them have a criminal record and set up a repayment schedule with interest.

  • chiphires

    So where did the money go? The dead obviously didn’t take it with them, so there must be some living person who cashed the check. It should not be too difficult in this age of “perceived government snooping” to see where the check was deposited. I propose deputizing the NSA to retrieve the funds. 🙂

  • Mark Forsyth

    Why it’s as if they have taken a page straight from Jonathan Swifts “A Modest Proposal” and are attempting to reduce the surplus population.

  • 4sanity4all

    Anytime 36 million dollars is a “drop in the bucket”, you know you’re in trouble. They have driven fraud in the SNAP program to an “all time low”, so why is the Ag department not doing the same with farm subsidies? Are the payments automatic once you apply? I would think for the millions being disbursed, you should at least have to fill out paperwork every year stating that you are still among the living. Is there a way to claw back incorrectly disbursed funds? If not, why not?

  • commserver

    Welfare is in the eye of the beholder.