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D.C. or Zombieland? Federal cash paid to the dead

Just in time for spooky season, a new report out from a fiscal hawk conservative has dug up some numbers that sound like a premise for the next M. Night Shyamalan film.

We pay dead people.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a report Friday finding that, over the last decade, the federal government has funded over $1 billion in payments to deceased individuals.

Coburn’s report -- which compiles the results of audits, studies by the Government Accountability Office, and other investigations – seeks to highlight the inefficiencies of federal bureaucracies. Naturally, it comes with a Halloween-themed twist.

Titled “Federal Programs to Die For” and featuring a full-page photo of a gloomy graveyard on the cover, the report comes after the Social Security Administration’s inspector general unearthed data showing that $18 million in stimulus checks had been mailed to those who are already pushing up daisies.

Among the offending agencies, per the report, is the Department of Health and Human Services, which sent almost $4 million in heating and cooling assistance payments to about 11,000 deceased people. Medicare and Medicaid are major culprits as well, with claims paid for prescriptions, walkers, and canes for folks who no longer, um, need them.

As of this summer, federal agencies are expected to check the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File” before they send out checks. But those records often contain errors and are difficult to keep up to date.

Coburn’s report recommends greater oversight of that list, as well as other measures to reduce fraud and get mistakenly-distributed funds back.

“At this point in our nation’s history, it is of the utmost importance that every tax dollar spent by the government be put to good use,” it reads. "This means spending within our means on the living, not outside our means on the dead.”