The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) on August 8 released a new report for the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on current and potential sources of state death data used by Federal agencies for program administration and payment integrity and pointing to ways for better government cooperation in the sharing of that data.

“Accurate and timely information on citizens who have passed away plays a key role in the Federal government’s ability to reduce improper payment of Social Security benefits, identify those who are eligible for survivor benefits, and strengthen program administration,” Academy President and CEO Teresa Gerton said in a statement.

“Our Panel report encourages better intergovernmental cooperation by outlining potential options for providing federal agencies with access to state death data,” he said.

The report – entitled ‘A Report to Congress on Sources of and Access to State Death Data’ – provides an analysis of:

  • State vital records offices and the challenges they face in producing and managing death data; Federal usage of state-provided death data and the unmet needs for this data within the Federal government; and
  • The appropriate roles of the states, the Federal government, and Congress in this process.

In addition to the analysis, the report offers three options for future improvements to intergovernmental sharing of death data.

The first option is to continue with the current process, under which SSA remains responsible for collecting and disseminating state death data among Federal benefits paying agencies. However, in this scenario, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Do Not Pay (DNP) program will gain direct access to SSA death data for three years beginning in December 2023, the report says.

The second option is that another agency, such as the Treasury’s DNP, will be responsible for distributing state death data among Federal agencies. With this scenario, once SSA collects death data from the states, DNP will provide death data files or data-matching services to Federal agencies to reduce improper payments.

The third option is that a third-party, non-governmental organization such as the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), can serve as the death data clearinghouse. Under this scenario, once SSA collects death data from the states, NAPHSIS serves as the sole source for Federal agencies to access state death data.

“Federal and state governments have different perspectives, but we believe that they can develop a solution that ensures data security, provides appropriate compensation for all parties and supports agencies’ efforts to reduce improper payments and improve program integrity,” said Gerton.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.