Hundreds of millions of dollars in Social Security checks and Death Benefit payments went unclaimed and/or uncashed every year, prior to SSA’s 2013 transition to electronic payments.
There is no time limit concerning a request to reissue a lost or uncashed check, but no effort is made to locate and/or notify owners of uncashed checks and unclaimed benefits, including Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) contains important important information on 92 million persons whose deaths are on file with the Social Security Administration, including: social security number, date of issuance, state of issuance, date of birth, date of death, last known residence, and payment of final benefit.
Included are the names of legal aliens with social security numbers, and some 400,000 railroad retirees, who may be entitled to collect Railroad Retirement Board pensions and benefits.
With a Social Security number heirs can obtain the decedent’s Social Security application and claims file, which details birth place, parents’ names, and where the lump-sum death distribution beneficiary lived.
Note: In addition to uncashed checks and unclaimed benefits, the Social Security Administration is also responsible for another substantial stockpile of unclaimed money – uncredited earnings.
In 1987, a Government Accountability Office audit found SSA was unable to credit more than $59 billion in earnings to the proper account, resulting in underpayment of benefits to almost 10 million workers. Ten years later, the “Earnings Suspense File” of uncredited earnings and unpaid benefits attributable to clerical errors and reporting mistakes had grown to $200 billion. In 2015, the ESF reached a staggering $1.2 trillion in uncredited wages, affecting 333 million W-2s.
Given the estimated $30 billion per year in Social Security benefit underpayments and SSA’s own admission that “… efforts to reduce suspense file items … were not current,” workers should verify proper posting by regularly checking their Social Security Statement (formerly known as the “PEBES” – Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement).
The Social Security Statement, which is updated annually, lists amounts paid in by year and benefits due on retirement, death or disability. Statements are sent automatically every year to workers and former workers aged 25 and older, or at any time on request.