According to a report released this summer from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, some USDA agencies have paid out millions in crop insurance, conservation and other farm program premiums to deceased individuals.
The findings are outlined in the report, "USDA Needs to Do More to Prevent Improper Payments to Deceased Individuals," which details hiccups in the check systems of three agencies that make most payments to farmers and landowners: USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency.
Of the three agencies, the report found that only FSA implements a check system to determine if any recipients are deceased before issuing payment. The process includes a comparison against the Social Security Administration's Death Master File and a subsequent follow-up to determine if the person receiving the payment is in fact dead, GAO said.
Report author Daniel Garcia-Diaz said in the case of the other two agencies, if nobody notifies USDA or the agency doesn't check against the SSA file, payments will continue to be made.
In response to that finding, GAO completed its own check of NRCS' payment lists from fiscal year 2008 to April, 2012, determining that the agency made $10.6 million in payments to more than 1,000 individuals a year or more after they had died.
In the case of RMA, the audit revealed that from 2008 to 2012, $22 million may have been provided on behalf of nearly 3,500 policyholders two or more years after their death.
GAO notes that some of these payments may have been proper, but NRCS and RMA cannot be certain because the agencies don't identify which payments were made to decased individuals.
In contrast, the only agency that does weed out deceased individuals – FSA – has flagged over 28,000 deceased policyholders in 2011 and 2012, equating to $3.3 million in payments.