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Database Error Costs Social Security Victims $500M

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the drop-in-the-bucket dept.

Bug 299

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Posts reports that the Social Security Administration has agreed to pay more than $500 million in back benefits to more than 80,000 recipients whose benefits were unfairly denied after they were flagged by a federal computer program designed to catch serious criminals. At issue is a 1996 law, which contained language later nicknamed the 'fleeing felon' provision, that said fugitives were ineligible to receive federal benefits. As part of its enforcement, the administration began searching computer databases to weed out people who were collecting benefits and had outstanding warrants. The searches captured dozens of criminals, including some wanted for homicide, but they also ensnared countless elderly and disabled people accused of relatively minor offenses such as shoplifting or writing bad checks and in some cases, the victims simply shared a name and a birth date with an offender." (Read more, below.) "The lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, Rosa Martinez, 52, of Redwood City, Calif., was cut off from her $870 monthly disability benefit check in January 2008 because the system had flagged an outstanding drug warrant in 1980 for a different Rosa Martinez from Miami. Officials said it is difficult to estimate how many social security recipients might be affected by the agreement but said the number is fewer than 1 percent nationally. 'What's remarkable about this case is thesheer number of individuals who were unfairly denied benefits and the size of the financial settlement they will receive,' said David H. Fry of Munger, Tolles & Olson, one of the pro bono attorneys who represented victims."

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299 comments

Not a database error (5, Insightful)

abshack (1389985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044147)

This is human error. When will people learn not to make peoples' name the primary key... :/

Re:Not a database error (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044193)

Wat do you suggest they use?

I mean, it should be SSN, but then they would have to because no private company is allowed to use it; which lowers its value to ID thieves immensely.

In fact, that would halt most wide spread mass ID theft in the US.

Re:Not a database error (1)

rhathar (1247530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044351)

Actually, even SSN are not 'unique'. They try and keep it unique for each generation, but they've already started reusing numbers.

Um - No, not yet at least (5, Informative)

HiChris! (999553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044573)

Actually, even SSN are not 'unique'. They try and keep it unique for each generation, but they've already started reusing numbers.

SSNs are not currently re-used. They may potentially be reissued but we are talking 50+ years from now. See http://www.ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html [ssa.gov]

Re:Not a database error (0, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044843)

I need a cite of a re-used SSN number.
If this is a problem, they could just start allowing alpha. That would solve the problem, forever.

Re:Not a database error (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044985)

and completely screw up every system designed to make sure that a social security number is nine digits, not nine alpha numerics.

Re:Not a database error (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044485)

Unsigned bigint auto-increment.

You can be number 1.

Re:Not a database error (1)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045105)

Good thing that this is the Social Security Administration, and not a private company.

Re:Not a database error (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045269)

Um, this is the one agency that SHOULD USE THE SSN!!!

Think about it.

And if they can't keep the reused ones straight, based on date of birth, well, there is no way we can manage anything.

This is not rocket science. If you want to use names, perhaps ya gotta check for duplicates and refer it to a human to do some research and decide which one is the crook and which one is not. Actually, since we should not be denying anyone benefits, you keep paying both until you figure it out.

And this is the Government you want running healthcare? Imagine my suprise if I go to my doctor and he tells me I can't see him. The Government says I'm dead. Or in jail. Or someone else.

And tell me it won't happen. I need the laugh, except your naivete is not the least bit funny. Try harder. Please.

Re:Not a database error (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045435)

why would the government need to verify identity? Everybody's covered, so the only question is medical history.

Re:Not a database error (4, Funny)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044265)

How about the summary leading me to believe that is one of the dumbest laws in existence. How exactly do you pay benefits to a FUGITIVE, someone the fucking police/fbi/law enforcement and even bounty hunters can't find?

Re:Not a database error (5, Interesting)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044297)

Social Security benefits are paid regardless of where you live, which might be a country that can't/won't extradite you back to the U.S.

Re:Not a database error (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045403)

Social Security benefits are paid regardless of where you live, which might be a country that can't/won't extradite you back to the U.S.

And for those, there's the American Plan [wikipedia.org] to get them back home again, if they're considered a big enough pain in the ass to the Feds to go get them. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Not a database error (3, Funny)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044275)

There's always some sodding twat that thinks it would be brilliant to make the primary key an email address.

If they're not already burning in hell, I'd quite like to shove a bottle of Dave's Insanity Sauce up their ring.

Any /.'ers used the piece of total twattage that is "Sostenuto"?

I don't have the words to describe how shite it is.

Smiff: "But it does send emails!"

Re:Not a database error (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044391)

I know I'm being off-topic, but I don't think that post could have been any more British. Awesome.

Re:Not a database error (1, Funny)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044559)

Well, it could if it suggested that the government be put in charge of life-and-death healthcare decisions. But given TFA that might look silly.

Re:Not a database error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044859)

Well, it could if it suggested that the government be put in charge of life-and-death healthcare decisions. But given TFA that might look silly.

Yes, because a corporate solution would be much better. They'd continue collecting Social Security tax payments, and work hard to kick as many people off as possible for things like making a typo on an application form. Oh, and they'd have all the money invested in "level 3" assets, which they would assure us are really worth what they say they are, despite the total lack of a market for said assets.

You're right - it would look downright silly to suggest that sort of thing!

Re:Not a database error (5, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044379)

The problem was not the choice of primary key. The problem was the way in which the people in charge of the process failed to consider the possibility of false positives.

more than 80,000 recipients whose benefits were unfairly denied... The searches captured dozens of criminals

"dozens?" Let's be generous and say 50. 50 out of 80,000 is a 99.9% rate of false positives. Not good.

Re:Not a database error (2)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045443)

Let's be generous and say 50.

On the contrary, with a floor of 24 and an an infinite ceiling, 50 is quite a conservative definition of "dozens!"

One would think .... (3, Insightful)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044507)

One would think the SSN could serve as a unique identifier.

And our non-representative representatives in Congress wonder why so many people don't trust them to run the healthcare system.

I can see it now

We're sorry Matt Hew Johnson, we accidentally removed your leg as per operation instructions intended for Matthew Johnson down the hall. Now I know you think you got the bad end of the deal. I mean you loosing your leg and him getting the heart transplant you expected, but before you start complaining, recognize, you are B+ and he is type A-. Poor bastard will be lucky if he makes it through the night, which means your likely to get double breakfast tomorrow courtesy of Uncle Sammy. That should cheer you up, gimpy. Well, I would love to stay and chat, but union regs say I get to take a 30 minute break every half hour.

Completely Offtopic (2, Insightful)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045311)

Has the healthcare "protesting" spilled into other discussions now? This is the second post already that I've read that's completely offtopic. Are you being encouraged to shout down *everyone*?

Also, to respond directly to your post, how is your scenario of mistaking "Matt Hew Johnson" with "Matthew Johnson" in adjacent rooms relevant to anything?

It sure would be great to hear a logical argument against government healthcare that couldn't be countered with, "but how is that any different than what we already have?" But instead, all we get to hear about is government incompetence and SOCIALISM!!!!

--Jeremy

Re:Not a database error (0, Troll)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044663)

Am I hallucinating or did GeeDoubleYouBee use the exact same sql query to strike votes against him from the record during the farce that was the downfall of the legitimate president-elect ? Almost suuuure, I read something along these lines at some point....

How on earth... (4, Insightful)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044165)

Let me get this straight: we're talking about the Social Security Administration, who is responsible for assigning every citizen a unique number which is then used to pay out benefits, and is also used by everybody's dog to act as a unique ID, presumably including the criminal justice system. The very same people who *dole out* these numbers can't be bothered to use them to cross-check whether somebody should stop getting benefits because of this law???

Re:How on earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044195)

It is not a unique number.

Re:How on earth... (1)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044209)

It's unique enough, or everybody's dog wouldn't insist on using them to identify you, regardless of whether they're legally allowed to or not...

Unique Enough? (2, Insightful)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044407)

"Unique Enough" isn't.

Re:Unique Enough? (1)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044535)

In this case, yes, it is very clearly sufficient to solve the problem. The chances of two people with the same full name and birthdate being given the same social security number are so astronomically low (by design!) that over the course of this program (matching fugitives to recipients), it might happen once. That's plenty unique enough for me.

Re:Unique Enough? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044645)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_attack [wikipedia.org]

Careful with your use of astronomically low.

Re:Unique Enough? (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044795)

What is the square root of astronomical ?

Re:Unique Enough? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044981)

Whatever it is it cannot be a natural number.

Re:Unique Enough? (1)

Omega Hacker (6676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044877)

This is ludicrous for a number of reasons: 1) This is not an active attack, there is no practical way to game the collision. (ok, there is: just invent a time machine and get yourself re-named the same as your target, assuming you were born on the same day anyway, and got a SSN collision to boot) 2) The SSN sequence is presumably designed to avoid same-day same-name collisions in the first place. 3) If it's unique enough for the IRS *and* the SSN to be taking and handing out money based on, it damn well better be unique enough to avoid jacking people of their SS checks.

Re:How on earth... (3, Informative)

c0nman (573940) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045337)

Q20: Are Social Security numbers reused after a person dies?

A: No. We do not reassign a Social Security number (SSN) after the number holder's death. Even though we have issued over 415 million SSNs so far, and we assign about 5 and one-half million new numbers a year, the current numbering system will provide us with enough new numbers for several generations into the future with no changes in the numbering system.

Re:How on earth... (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044213)

It's a lot more complicated then that, but it mostly boils down to allowing private companies to use said number.

Re:How on earth... (0, Flamebait)

rho (6063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044287)

LET'S LET THEM RUN HEALTH CARE NEXT!

Yeah, I know, health care is different, anything's better that what we've got, etc. I just find it amusing that few single-payer supporters recall all the times the U.S. government completely screwed the pooch. They always want to talk about Australia for some reason.

Re:How on earth... (5, Insightful)

greed (112493) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044421)

The thing about UNIVERSAL public health care is...

It's actually not very important if you correctly identify who is getting health care.

Your doctor needs to know who you are, and lab results need to be correctly tied to samples, and so on. But that's not a function of who's paying the bills.

But for determining if the doctors and labs get paid? Not so much.

Basically, all you really need to know is, "is this person a citizen or lawful immigrant?" and "is this procedure covered by the system?". It's not so important to know WHICH citizen or lawful immigrant. It's nice to get it right, but your medical history doesn't need to be part of your public health insurance ID, so it's not critical to treatment.

Different keying problem.

That being said... I'm amazed at how many people think there's some huge government conspiracy out to get them when they can't get simple stuff like this right. Sure, they can listen in on all cell phone calls... but they can't keep a list properly?

Re:How on earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044537)

But for determining if the doctors and labs get paid? Not so much.

How would you avoid large scale scams by doctors and labs? Medicare is regularly scammed.

Re:How on earth... (1)

KingKiki217 (979050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045047)

That being said... I'm amazed at how many people think there's some huge government conspiracy out to get them when they can't get simple stuff like this right. Sure, they can listen in on all cell phone calls... but they can't keep a list properly?

Do you really want to be in such a database when they incorrectly flag people as felons in this one, a database not built to sift for any indication of criminal behavior?

The Washington Posts reports that the Social Security Administration has agreed to pay more than $500 million in back benefits to more than 80,000 recipients whose benefits were unfairly denied after they were flagged by a federal computer program designed to catch serious criminals.

How would you feel about the phone database or the Folsom Street secret room if they released numbers like this for the false positives there? Incompetence doesn't make the action not evil, and in cases like these, it can compound the offense.

Re:How on earth... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045317)

Your doctor does need to know if you're allergic to the drug she's about to prescribe for you!

That info will be linked to your unique ID

Re:How on earth... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044425)

Comments like yours are pointless because they don't even try to compare the errors comitted here by the govt. to those routinely comitted by anybody else who might concievably run such a system.

I mean, it's not like private industry insurers ever deny valid claims (exactly what Social Security did here), now is it? The only difference is they do it routinely and intentionally, and consider it a business practice instead of an error. Does that bother you equally, or not? Do you have any reason to believe the number of these "errors" would go up instead of down with a single payer system?

I'm glad Social Security is fighting fraudulent claims. It does happen. How many billions of taxpayer dollars were saved by this program? What percentage of the denials were in error? Without those figures the story is meaningless.

Re:How on earth... (1)

rho (6063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044561)

You took my snark way too seriously.

But while I'm here, another thing nobody ever brings up. Seems every couple of weeks some timeserver leaves his laptop on a train with 300 million records on it. Don't think that'll happen with your medical records? Why is nobody talking about this?

Re:How on earth... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044819)

"some timeserver"
errrr what is a timeserver? Just a p[rivate worker? public worker? both?

I haven't seen the slang.

Re:How on earth... (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045065)

An eight to fiver.
An ergonomic chair warmer.
An electronic paper pusher.
One half of a birther pair.
A mobile organic coffee recycling system.
Copy room wall supporter.

Did I miss any descriptive terms?

Re:How on earth... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044849)

Doesn't that only happen over here in the UK ?

Re:How on earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045109)

That only happens in the UK. In the USA nobody rides trains.

Re:How on earth... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045119)

Seems every couple of weeks some timeserver leaves his laptop on a train with 300 million records on it. Don't think that'll happen with your medical records? Why is nobody talking about this?

I don't know what a timeserver is, but I do know the govt. agency I am familiar with is now mandating full disk encryption with machine-generated passwords for all mobile storage, including laptops and memory sticks, which is certainly a good idea.

Re:How on earth... (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044547)

LET'S LET THEM RUN HEALTH CARE NEXT!

Yes, let's.

On the one hand, are you under some delusion that your health insurance company is somehow doing a better job? With greater reliability, efficiency, and accountability? Fewer errors, fewer denied valid claims?? Do you just take it on faith, or do you have any evidence at all that your insurance company is doing a better job?

Re:How on earth... (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044673)

On the one hand, are you under some delusion that your health insurance company is somehow doing a better job? With greater reliability, efficiency, and accountability? Fewer errors, fewer denied valid claims?? Do you just take it on faith, or do you have any evidence at all that your insurance company is doing a better job?

Well they're making tons of money, so they must be doing something right! =D

Re:How on earth... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044887)

Well they're making tons of money, so they must be doing something right! =D\

Yes, but is it providing health care to those who need it? Or is it providing health care until you need it?

Turns out the latter is much more profitable. That's what shareholders want. But is that what anyone looking for health care actually wants?

Re:How on earth... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045059)

Yes, but is it providing health care to those who need it? Or is it providing health care until you need it?

*blank stare*

They're making money. Whatever they're doing, they're doing it right.

I like money.

Re:How on earth... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045409)

I like money.

Until you need health care.

Re:How on earth... (1)

rho (6063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044697)

I like how you leapt from assumption to assumption until you landed at your preferred conclusion.

This is why the health care reform debate is a shit-flinging monkey fight.

Re:How on earth... (2, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045121)

I like how you leapt from assumption to assumption until you landed at your preferred conclusion.

I'm curious what you think my conclusion was.

The only assumption I made was that the parent poster has zero data whatsoever that would demonstrate that the people currently running health care aren't making worse mistakes / decisions.

And my conclusion, for the record, really wasn't that government health care would be better or more reliable or anything. My point was that before we label the government as categorically unfit to run it, we should establish that the people currently in charge are actually doing a better job than the gov't would.

As far as my bias on the subject, yes, I am in favor of govt doing what they are proposing. Everything I've read and seen about the actual bill (as opposed to stuff like that vacuum skulled Palin's fictional death panels) is quite reasonable.

And there is clear evidence from Europe and Canada that government run health care is delivering better results than the status quo, and at lower costs.

And finally, the govt ALREADY runs health care for the military and has for decades, and I don't think they've proven categorically unfit to run it -- and I don't see any horrific "death panels", nor do I see any "washington bureaucrats blocking doctors from giving care" either.

This is why the health care reform debate is a shit-flinging monkey fight.

Its a shit flinging monkey fight because, in this case, the right is making asses of themselves.

(And I'm not saying the left don't make asses of themselves on a regular basis, but in this case, its the right.)

Re:How on earth... (2, Insightful)

rho (6063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045297)

The only assumption I made was that the parent poster has zero data whatsoever that would demonstrate that the people currently running health care aren't making worse mistakes / decisions.

That was a pretty poor assumption, since I never insinuated any such thing. The point began and ended with noting that the U.S. federal government is well-known for its gaffes, and that they're never referenced in any debate on health reform.

I don't know why you took such a simple idea and ran for the hills with it, but I bet it annoys people around you.

Re:How on earth... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045175)

I'm not the person you were responding to, but when I look at the more centralized systems of all other western nations, I see universally lower costs, and also better health outcomes. Where's the assumption in that?

Re:How on earth... (4, Insightful)

rho (6063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045259)

If I had a real point, that would have been one of them. Single-payer proponents all point to a lot of other governments to say how great it is. It's harder to make the case that the U.S. government can do as well. For example, Medicare is enduring severe cost overruns and is rife with corruption.

Nobody ever talks about how great the U.S. government would be. They always say "it's working great in Australia!" Which can be perfectly true, but irrelevant, unless we adopt the Australian system, every jot and tittle--or hire Australia to run our health care system as well.

Re:How on earth... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044787)

The error rates for this in government is several orders of magnitudes smaller then in private companies.

You ahve a lot more avenues for recourse in a government system.

Re:How on earth... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044603)

Warrants don't typically contain SSNs. I know because I spent 4 years working for SSA and explaining that very fact to the little old lady who was presumably wanted.

Re:How on earth... (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044653)

It is bad database design to use first and last names as primary keys. You usually want to use something unique like SSN.

Health Insurance companies used to do that as well, I had the same name as my father but a different middle name and different birth date and SSN. But the darned Health Insurance companies used to claim they were double billed when I saw the same doctor as my father and I lived at the same address. I eventually had to see different doctors and get a different insurance company. But even back in the 1980's they did stupid things like use the first and last name as the primary keys and ignored the SSN, policy number, group number, date of birth, and middle name as indexes as well.

I'll bet they don't sanitize their data inputs either. [xkcd.com]

Re:How on earth... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044761)

Let me get this straight: we're talking about the Social Security Administration, who is responsible for assigning every citizen a unique number which is then used to pay out benefits, and is also used by everybody's dog to act as a unique ID, presumably including the criminal justice system. The very same people who *dole out* these numbers can't be bothered to use them to cross-check whether somebody should stop getting benefits because of this law???

So..... do you think it was deliberate ? or did the whole organisation experience a group-brainfart ?

DB indexed on the wrong key, obviously ... (2, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044169)

... in some cases, the victims simply shared a name and a birth date with an offender.

But I imagine they do not, with the exception of ID fraud, share a Social Security number?

Re:DB indexed on the wrong key, obviously ... (4, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044753)

The problem is that in all probability the database of the criminals does not have their SSN. Therefore there is no way to know if the Rosa Martinez in Redwood, CA is the Rosa Martinez with an outstanding drug warrant from Miami, FL or not. Of course it would have been nice if someone had thought this through before they passed a law, but then as we have recently discovered it is just too much work for Congressman to actually read the laws before they pass them.

And that's what happens (5, Interesting)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044177)

when you make everybody do the job that the police are supposed to be doing. Who thought it would be a good idea for Social Security people to be screening criminals? (Newt Gingrich and his Contract on America congress in 1996, that's who). Screening criminals is what the police should be doing. What's next? Is the FBI going to be paving the roads?

Re:And that's what happens (2, Interesting)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044257)

Or the IRS and SSA enforcing Health Insurance regulations?

Re:And that's what happens (2, Funny)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044479)

Is the FBI going to be paving the roads?

That would explain why there are potholes big enough to stop any gataway car in its tracks.

Re:And that's what happens (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044617)

The idea before you get too pissed about it was simple. Drug dealers were living *VERY* comfortably on drug money then claiming 'no income'. So on top of the thousands in cash they were getting from drugs they claim SSN and Food stamps. It is wildly profitable, think 3-4k per 'client' per month for some drugs.

These programs are meant to HELP people not finance a drug dealers stash of food and an extra playstation console for his buds. And then pay for his apartment to live in with the 'low income housing credits'.

These people were breaking the law and will continue to do so. They do not deserve the benefits of someone else who follows the law. These people live VERY nicely off 3-5 people. They are parasites in all terms of the word. Then turn around and are living off *YOU*, where is your outrage man?

These parasites are misusing the system. They do not deserve it. It makes me angry that they use it in this way. This system is meant to help people. Instead they are stealing from it. Then turn around and say 'I do not have anything to contribute into it'.

That some people got mistagged is the fault of the SSN org. They should be brought to task for it. They should have double checked before just 'ticking off the checkbox'. That also makes me angry.

Re:And that's what happens (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044975)

And that's what happens when you make everybody do the job that the police are supposed to be doing.

I find your tone suggests that the police have spare capacity.

If the police start chasing down criminals, how are all the pregnant mothers gonna get tazered and do you really want to set in motion a chain of events that ends with a donut-mountain eclipsing the sun?

Re:And that's what happens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045431)

But the police have to go after file-sharers, baseball players who use supplements and people not wearing their seatbelts! They can't be expected to waste their time on fugitives who commit such piddly crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping or armed assault while some RIAA executive is having to settle for a Lamborghini Reventon instead of the Bugatti Veyron he truly wanted.

Not a database error #2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044179)

this seems like an algorithm error...not a DB error.

Not really 'costing' money (1)

jedilowe (1617111) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044215)

It seems to me that the error probably nets money, as they did not have to pay $500M for a while, so they had that much extra cash on hand... it may be throwing off budgets, but if the software was correct, they would have been paid, and the deficit higher, and we would have been paying interest? 8)

Re:Not really 'costing' money (1)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044289)

Your argument relies upon the assumption that there were no damages incurred, which is almost certainly not the case here. Furthermore, I suspect it unlikely that the interest generated will offset these damages.

Re:Not really 'costing' money (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045113)

I bet you believe the government actually balances the budget also.

It Cost Them? (1, Offtopic)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044235)

That's like saying if my mortgage company didn't send me a bill, then figured it out, it "cost" me a house payment.

It was owed all along.

Re:It Cost Them? (1, Offtopic)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044249)

Xney that post. Too much vodka in the afternoon tea.

Re:It Cost Them? (0)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044359)

RTFS.
It "cost" the recipients, not the government.

It's more like saying your employer didn't pay you one month, and that it cost you a month's wages.

And then they had to go to court to get their employer to pay their salary for the month.

Re:It Cost Them? (-1, Redundant)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044451)

see my reply to my original post.

Same goes for the idiot moderators.

Re:It Cost Them? (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044611)

Yeah. I apparently loaded the page in the minute between your first and second posts.

But Troll? That's a little harsh, even for /.'s idiot moderators.

Maybe "-1 - Too much vodka" :-)

Re:It Cost Them? (0, Offtopic)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045057)

"Score 2, Troll" - uhh, do I win some kind of prize for spotting this? how could this happen?

What a stupid law. (5, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044281)

I'm not getting this law. First off, social security isn't some charity program, paid for by other taxpayers. It is money that the citizens/criminals paid into the system and deserve to get back, regardless of what else they have done in life. Besides, are we really doing ourselves a favor by denying ex-cons their own money that they need to survive in their old age?

Furthermore, if it really is about current fugitives, then wouldn't the government love to know a mailing address for these people so they can arrest them, rather than just refusing SS payment?

Re:What a stupid law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045359)

First off, social security isn't some charity program, paid for by other taxpayers. It is money that the citizens/criminals paid into the system and deserve to get back, regardless of what else they have done in life.

It's not a charity, it's a government benefit. Government benefits *always* come with strings attached. If you accept benefits from the government, you are being put into a box and they will use those benefits coercively to keep you in your box. This is why you should be deeply distrustful of government interference in healthcare: they can use your health to put you in a box. (And this is absolutely true of the existing government health benefits.)

$500M/80K = how much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044317)

Sounds like Rosa Martinez might be getting back more than $870/mo worth. Even going all the way back to 1996, that's an average of about $40,000/mo per person.

Re:$500M/80K = how much? (1)

pootypeople (212497) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044495)

It's a class action. That means the payment is to all members of the class, possibly even potential members of the class who have not yet joined it. Class action suits are very lucrative for the attorneys involved because the payouts are so large.

Re:$500M/80K = how much? (3, Informative)

680x0 (467210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044539)

Sounds like Rosa Martinez might be getting back more than $870/mo worth. Even going all the way back to 1996, that's an average of about $40,000/mo per person.

What are you smoking? $500 million, divided by 80,000 people is an average of $6250 per person, total. Assuming they were all getting $870 per month, they were being paid for an average of a little over 7 months.

Re:$500M/80K = how much? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044735)

He's smoking New Math Lights. With that fresh menthol flavor and less tar than competing brands, New Math Lights lets you fail at math with style!

Re:$500M/80K = how much? (3, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045131)

Less tar?
More zip!?

Did they use the same fake list that FL used in vo (0, Offtopic)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044341)

Did they use the same fake list that FL used in voteing?

Defending the SS admins (4, Insightful)

hellfire (86129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044373)

Okay, you geeks all confuse me. First you say that by law no one should be using the SSN as a unique identifier except for the SSA itself. Then you ask why aren't people using this unique number to avoid mistakes!!!

I don't blame the SS because they were doing what they were told to do, cut off what someone defined as criminals. The problem was the definition, and how to link SS roles with all these outstanding warrants and whatnot. Are we sure the criminal records all have SSNs? Or could it be that we did a join on some other column and hoped for the best and thought 98% was good enough? I can see a programmer being forced to do the latter by a stupid law. How many John Smiths without proper social security numbers were in the dataset they had to work with?

This was a stupid law to begin with, and probably had some stupid premises to get the information linked up. Never allow a politician to act like a project manager, they'll never get it right.

Re:Defending the SS admins (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044545)

Then you ask why aren't people using this unique number to avoid mistakes!!!

By people, you mean the SSA? Aren't they the ones who should be using the SSN/birthdate?

Re:Defending the SS admins (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044599)

By people, you mean the SSA? Aren't they the ones who should be using the SSN/birthdate?

SSA would use SSNs, Law Enforcement, i.e. the people providing the SSA with information about criminals, may not have been.

It was a very simple point. Two replies totally missed it.

Re:Defending the SS admins (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044867)

law enforcement doesn't have the ability to identify someone to that level? Then screw 'em. You shouldn't cut people's benefits because they share a name with someone with a bench warrant - next they'll make up a scret list of names that keep people off planes.

Re:Defending the SS admins (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045021)

You shouldn't cut people's benefits because they share a name with someone with a bench warrant

Ah, yes, and now you understand the real problem.

next they'll make up a scret list of names that keep people off planes.

Hehe.

Lady behind the counter, just after telling me that I was on a TSA Watch List: "There must be an evil Chris Burke out there."

Me: *shifty eyes* Yeah, some other Chris Burke must be evil...

Re:Defending the SS admins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044557)

Okay, you geeks all confuse me. First you say that by law no one should be using the SSN as a unique identifier except for the SSA itself. Then you ask why aren't people using this unique number to avoid mistakes!!!

Except that this is the SSA, so they should be using the SSN.

No no... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044793)

Using an SSN for *identification* of persons (like to distinguish between 10 John Smith's in a database) is perfectly fine. That's the whole point of the SSN. (They arent necessarily unique, so they might not be suitable as a master key, but whatever.)

Using the SSN for *authentication* (to prove that the person really is who they say they are) is the problem. SSNs are publically available, they are totally unsuitable for authenticating people with. Unfortunately, they get used for that too, and thats why identity theft is so easy with them.

Re:Defending the SS admins (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29044963)

You are right, the police do not take ssns, and there are no ssns on warrants. I still think without a unique identifier we should have used every identifier we had access to. Birthplace and such. More importantly I think when people are denied social insurance they should be replied to with detail as to why and have an easy process to fight it ... like if it wasn't you.

Cut to aerial camera view... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044471)

I look up and shake my fist -- COBOL!!!!!!

What they needed was a primary key... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044585)

What they needed was some sort of primary key for their social security tables, with which to match against. Perhaps a number, unique to each individual?

Elementary, My Dear (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29044607)

town hall protesters and morons [youtube.com] . The problem is known as Type 1 error [wikipedia.org] .

You may now return to your Death Panel protests.

Yours In Recission,
Kilgore Trout, M.D.

Do away with it (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045009)

We wouldn't have these problems if they simply did away with Social Security entirely. It was never meant to be a retirement plan for every citizen. It cannot possibly dole out the benefits it has promised to future generations. It is a freaking pyramid scheme, and a poorly planned one at that.

I've been paying into it for decades now, and I'd still rather they just let me cut my losses. Think of the boost to the economy if OASDI and Medicare wasn't stolen from your paycheck. That and we could get rid of the entire bloated Social Security Administration and the vast mountains of useless paperwork generated by mindless drones.

Really now, how long are we going to stare at the gaping bleeding wound in the economy and say to ourselves "dang, that hurts, should probably do something about that before I bleed out."

Re:Do away with it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29045215)

We wouldn't have these problems if they simply did away with Social Security entirely. It was never meant to be a retirement plan for every citizen.

Quite true. The pension that would be paid by the employer that you worked for your whole life for was supposed to take care of that. (Actually, IIRC the rhetoric of the time was that a retiree would be supported by three legs: pension, savings, and social security.) It's a good thing employers still have generous pensions for their workers.

Great news everyone! (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 4 years ago | (#29045405)

Well, everyone who didn't die waiting for this to be straightened out, that is.
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