A Social Security Administration mistake spanning 26 years might be the reason why Conroe native Kline Fisher Budd has been indicted with one count of theft of government property by the feds.
Well, that, and the fact that Budd has allegedly been collecting his deceased mother’s social security checks ever since she died, bringing in over a quarter million of government funds throughout the last three decades.
A story from the Houston Chronicle reported that the eighty-year-old man had been withdrawing money monthly from the account he shared with Willie Mae Shaughnesy, the woman believed to have been his mother. The SSA had continued to deposit monthly benefits to the woman via direct electronic deposit.
News of the official investigation was released June 28 by the Office of the Inspector General. That document confirms:
The indictment alleges that between December 1984 and December 2010, the SSA paid benefits monthly for Shaughnesy totaling more than $231,000.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the SSA - Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Cedric L. Joubert is prosecuting the case.
The question is, why did it take the SSA so long to uncover their financial blunder?
After a closer look at her records back in 2010, agency officials found that Shaughnesy would have been 104 if she were living, an AP story informed. Then investigators got their hands on an official Texas death certificate, verifying that she had died in November 1984.
This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. CNN Money’s Blake Ellis wrote a story last summer about the large number of deaths incorrectly recorded each year to, or by, the SSA.
Ellis said 14,000 of the 2.8 million death reports received by the SSA, “or one in every 200 deaths -- are incorrectly entered into its Death Master File, which contains the Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, death dates, zip codes and last-known residences of more than 87 million deceased Americans. That averages out to 38 life-altering mistakes a day.”
He also told the story of a woman who had been mistakenly cut off from the SSA’s disability payouts--only to never be reimbursed for her bounced checks or missed payments.
On the other side of the coin, Ellis noted how much cash the government agency doles out unnecessarily in a 2011 story: “The Social Security inspector general estimates that the agency has made $40.3 million in erroneous payments to deceased beneficiaries,” he wrote.
Quoting this figure, the Huffington Post ’s Alexander Eichler mused, “that's disheartening news for anyone who's worried about the program running out of money.”