"It's important to note that FSA has actually made significant improvements in identifying deceased individuals who have made improper payments," Garcia-Diaz said Monday. "But it's time for the other two USDA agencies – NRCS and RMA – to catch up with their sister agency and implement steps to identify improper payments to deceased individuals and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used in an appropriate way."
Specifically, GAO recommends that FSA strengthen its verification process, and that the other two agencies implement procedures to catch improper payments and increase the "effectiveness of its data mining."
GAO reports that the USDA generally agreed with the audit's findings.
The report, however, has fueled the fire for critics of farm programs that have been working in opposition to this year's farm bill.
Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, said Monday that the findings are "appalling."
"At a time when some lawmakers want to cut off funding for the hungriest children, we find out today the federal government has spent $22 million over four years to lavish insurance subsidies to individuals who are no longer alive," Faber said in a statement.
The group called for greater transparency for taxpayers and options to "fix this wasteful spending in the next farm bill."
Over the course of farm bill debate last year and into this summer, it's become clear that lawmakers are torn on the proposed farm programs in the bill, despite the elimination of direct payments.
View the full report here.