Older perhaps, but wiser?
By John D. Turner
20 May 2015

PT Barnum once remarked that there’s a sucker born every minute. Sometimes it seems that the biggest sucker of all is the Federal Government.

Back in March, the inspector general for the Social Security Administration completed an audit which revealed that 6.5 million Social Security numbers belong to Americans 112 years old or older. A few thousand of these have birth dates from before the Civil War! I know that people are living longer – but this is quite remarkable!

In April 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 0.02 percent of the population of the United States were 100 years old or older. That works out to be around 55,000 people. Worldwide there may be as many as 300,000; a large number to be sure, but hardly in the neighborhood of 6.5 million in the U.S. alone.

It should be noted as well, that there is a large difference between 100 years old and 112 years old. According to a New England study, the mean survival age of centenarians is around 103 years, with only 71 documented individuals older than 110 in the whole world. Looking at the data, it would seem to be really tough to get above 110, and if you do, each sunrise you see is a gift from God.

According to an article published this year in USA Today, there were at that time, exactly five people born in the 1800s who were still alive – all women. Three of these live in the United States. The oldest here in the US was born 4 July 1898 and was 116 years old. There was a woman in Mexico who claimed to be 127, but she lost her birth certificate forty years ago during a move.

She certainly looks like she might be 127.

In 2013, reporters in Ethiopia discovered a man who they claimed could be as old as 160. Of course, there was no way to actually verify when he was born. And if he is 160, I hope I look that good at 100; he certainly looks to be in better shape than the 127 year old in Mexico.

This is all well and good, and as people are living longer I am hoping to join the ranks of centenarians myself in 40 years or so. Articles have been published predicting that the first person to live to 150 has already been born (barring the claim of the man in Ethiopia), and it is expected that by 2050, there will be over 2.5 million centenarians worldwide – 1.2 million in the U.S. alone.

But that’s in 2050. This is 2015. How do the figures today square with the SSA’s audit showing 6.5 million Americans aged 112 or older? Clearly there are not 6.5 million Americans aged 112 or older today. So how did the audit turn up those numbers?

What the audit actually revealed is that there are approximately 6.5 million number holders (people) born before 16 Jun 1901 who did not have a date of death on their record. The audit concluded that the SSA lacks the controls necessary to annotate death information on the records of number-holders who exceed what they call “maximum reasonable life expectancies.”

In other words, their records have not been closed out because as far as the system is concerned, they haven’t died yet, and the system has no way to close them out because, since they are actually dead, there is no mechanism available to report them as such.

So what is happening with these dead people? We know that in many areas of the country, the dead still exercise their right to vote; are these dead people still active as far as their social security accounts are concerned?

Not surprisingly, the answer is yes. Many of the restless dead apparently still work. “During Calendar Years 2008 through 2011, SSA received 4,024 E-Verify inquiries using the Social Security Numbers of 3,873 number holders born before 16 June 1901,” the report stated. “These inquiries indicate individuals’ attempts to use the SSNs to apply for work.” And this does not include those that already have jobs and are not applying. The audit didn’t say anything about dead number holders who have money still being paid into their “account.”

The audit also didn’t say anything about money being paid to number holders who are likely deceased either.

So how does the SSA determine if you are dead or not? The IG report says that the SSA “matches death reports received from ‘various sources’ against its payment records, then records the date of a number-holder’s death in its Numerical Identification System, or Numident.” That information then feeds the SSA’s “Death Master File,” used by financial institutions and government entities to identify fraud.

Of course, if a person isn’t listed as dead in Numident, then they don’t show up in the DMF. Many of these unrecorded dead people probably date from earlier in the Social Security program, before good reporting methods were in place. And now that they are dead, and unreported via the “various sources” used by Numident, Numident has no way to record them as dead as they will never appear in those sources.

Are all 6.5 million being used fraudulently? Who knows? What is certain is that tens of thousands are currently being used to report wages to the Social Security Administration and IRS. People are successfully applying for jobs and benefits using these numbers. Many are being used by people here in the country illegally. Occasionally you hear stories of people who have been caught drawing benefits from Social Security on multiple accounts.

An article in the National Review recently noted that illegal immigrants who take advantage of President Obama’s executive action on immigration will soon begin collecting Social Security - not 40-50 years from now, but as early as 2017! The expectation is that around 16,000 will start collecting from the Old-Age, Survivor’s , and Disability Insurance program, with the numbers increasing for the next 40 years to around 695,000 additional beneficiaries.

Of course, as with most government projections, you can bet that the actual numbers will be higher than the projections.

Since you can count on the government being unlikely to clean up the dead folks on the SSA rolls, many illegals, now “regularized” using these bogus accounts, will probably at some point start drawing benefits on them. And seeing how old some of them should be, according to their bogus social security record, they could probably start doing so immediately.

Why do I say it is unlikely they will be cleaned up? We are talking about a government that can’t even clean up voting records to eliminate dead people; the argument being that it “disenfranchises” voters. The dead have a legal right to vote, apparently.

The same sort of “logic” applies here; many of these numbers are being used by people here in the country illegally. Many of them are Hispanic, or minorities of some sort. Thus, eliminating the dead folks from the SSA records would likely be “racist” and could be construed as “disenrolling” beneficiaries. The dead, too, have a legal right to work and collect benefits.

After all, if they haven’t been declared dead using the “various sources,” how do you know they are really dead, even if they are 150 years old? Someone could be unjustly deprived of their benefits!

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee noted that “It is incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead.” And he is correct, although it should be noted that he is a Republican and therefore unsympathetic to the plight of the poor and deprived, likely a racist, and no-doubt quite willing to deprive these poor dead people of their right to work, pay taxes, and vote Democrat.

You would think that this is a problem that could quite easily be fixed. But alas, we live in a massive government bureaucracy, with many vested interests and diverse political views. It takes time to accomplish even the simplest tasks, if they can be done at all. It wasn’t until 2006 that a local phone excise tax, enacted to help pay for the Spanish-American war was finally repealed – 108 years after the war ended.

Apparently, we live in a country with a government that enjoys being fleeced; at least it seems that way. How else do you explain the fact that even though the government knows there are people ripping off the social security program, the various welfare programs, fraudulently receiving disability benefits, and perpetuating multiple other scams, it seldom does anything about it unless the individual does something stupid or totally outrageous? Usually the claim is that “it would cost more to go after them than they are taking, so we are saving money by doing nothing.” This of course, just encourages the behavior.

When does the aggregate rip-off reach the point where it “makes sense” to try and fix the problem?

The United States may be older as a nation, but apparently is not getting much wiser. Uncle Sam appears to be a sucker, born 239 years ago.