Social Security Administration Is Amazing

A blog about business and economics.
June 24 2013 1:37 PM

The Social Security Administration Has a 99.996% Accuracy Rate for Paying Benefits to the Right People

A woman stands outside the Social Security Administration office in San Francisco.
A woman stands outside the Social Security Administration office in San Francisco.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"Social Security Kept Paying Benefits to 1,546 Deceased" reads Damian Paletta's Wall Street Journal headline, revealing that "the agency improperly paid $31 million in benefits" to these dead people.

But, as Nicholas Beaudrot writes, this is an astonishingly low error ratio for an agency that makes $750 billion in payments per year. That's especially true because the Social Security Administration has good reasons for biasing itself against erroneously cutting people off of their benefits. Paying money to 1,546 people who are actually dead is bad. Stopping payments to 1,546 people who are actually alive and winding up with them dying homeless when they can't pay the rent would be worse.

In other words—good job, Social Security Administration!

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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