WASHINGTON (AP) -- As much as $831 million a year in federal pension and health benefits is illegally paid to felons, fugitives, and even the deceased, a Senate report has found. The money to those groups -- and many others who are not legally entitled to benefits -- goes out mainly because federal records are not matched with information from local police, hospitals or other agencies.
"Social Security and Medicare programs don't have a penny to spare for undeserving people," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which gathered the data.
The Senate investigation comes as lawmakers struggle to maintain the long-term financial health of retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
It's illegal for fugitive felons and parole violators to get some portions of Social Security, which pays roughly $400 billion a year in benefits to retirees, the disabled and survivors of workers who die young. Legally they can get retirement, survivor or disability payments, but they are prohibited from the cash assistance program for the needy, known as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
Federal laws also ban most prisoners from receiving the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid, federal health insurance programs that help the elderly, disabled and needy.
Inmates, parolees and wanted criminals still get help, the committee's report found.
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