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We have a website that is dedicated to improving payment accuracy that features more information on what the Administration is doing to address improper payments, agency success stories, and targets for high-error programs. Learn More

Improper payments occur when funds go to the wrong recipient, the recipient receives the incorrect amount of funds, documentation is not available to support a payment, or the recipient uses funds in an improper manner. In fiscal year 2011, Federal government improper payments totaled approximately $115 billion. Although not all improper payments are fraud (most are unintentional), and not all improper payments represent a loss to the government (many improper payments may have been proper, but are considered inaccurate due to missing documentation), all improper payments degrade the integrity of government programs and compromise citizens’ trust in government. To better protect taxpayers and improve efficiency, the Administration is working with Federal and State partners, Congress and other stakeholders to reduce improper payments without negatively impacting citizen access to needed programs. You can learn more about our efforts to reduce improper payments at PaymentAccuracy.gov 

Government-wide Improper Payments

This metric shows the percentage of all payments by the Federal government that were improper – that is, they went to the wrong recipient, the recipient received the incorrect amount of funds, documentation was not available to support a payment, or the recipient used funds in an improper manner. While the vast majority of payments are done properly, an improper payment rate of 4-5% translates into approximately $115 billion in improper payments government-wide. As you can see, we are not settling with this current rate, but have identified concrete targets over the next few years to drive agency improvements. You can find out more about our efforts at PaymentAccuracy.gov. More detail is provided in the chart below on programs that an agency determines are susceptible to significant improper payments (specifically, improper payments greater than $10 million and over 2.5 percent of all annual payments made under that program, or improper payments over $100 million regardless of the improper payment rate), and which are required to measure and report improper payment estimates.

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Improper Payments by Agency

This metric shows the total amount of all improper payments broken down by agency for fiscal year 2011. While this data provides some insight into which agencies are contributing the most to the approximately $115 billion improper payment total, some agencies do not have precise improper payment numbers for some of their programs. Additionally, agencies vary tremendously in their total payments. These numbers do not include results from recovery audits. You can find out more about programs that measure and report improper payments below and at PaymentAccuracy.gov.

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Government-wide Recapture of Improper Payments

In addition to reducing payments made improperly, we must work to recapture any improper payments quickly. Under the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010, agencies are responsible for reviewing their payments to identifyand recapture improper payments. Since fiscal year 2004, agencies have been reporting on their efforts to identify and recapture improper contract payments in their annual financial reports. This metric shows the total amount of improper contract payments recovered by all agencies in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, as well as our government-wide goal for recapturing improper payments in the future. While the Administration has set a government-wide target of recapturing at least $2 billion in improper contract outlays between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2012, agency-specific targets have not yet been developed. Because of improved agency performance in fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011, we are less than $100 million from reaching our $2 billion recovery goal. 

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Breakdown of Programs that Report Improper Payments

ProgramAgencyTotal PaymentsImproper Payments% Improper Payment Rate
Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS)Department of Health and Human Services$336.4 B$28.8 B8.6
MedicaidDepartment of Health and Human Services$269.2 B$21.9 B8.1
Unemployment Insurance (UI)Department of Labor$114.1 B$13.7 B12.0
Medicare Advantage (Part C)Department of Health and Human Services$112.2 B$12.4 B11.1
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)Social Security Administration$50.3 B$4.6 B9.1
Retirement, Survivors & Disability Insurance (RSDI)Social Security Administration$695.5 B$4.5 B0.6
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)Department of Agriculture$64.7 B$2.5 B3.9
Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (Part D)Department of Health and Human Services$53.2 B$1.7 B3.2
School LunchDepartment of Agriculture$10.7 B$1.7 B15.9
Pell GrantsDepartment of Education$36.5 B$993.0 M2.7
Public Housing / Rental AssistanceDepartment of Housing and Urban Development$32.6 B$959.4 M2.9
School BreakfastDepartment of Agriculture$2.8 B$705.0 M25.2
Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)Department of Health and Human Services$5.7 B$638.0 M11.2
Compensation/Dependency & IndemnityDepartment of Veterans Affairs$63.0 B$629.9 M1.0
Fee ProgramDepartment of Veterans Affairs$4.2 B$522.9 M12.5
Military PayDepartment of Defense$96.0 B$474.3 M0.5
FHWA Highway Planning/ConstructionEnvironmental Protection Agency$48.1 B$450.3 M0.9
Travel PayDepartment of Defense$8.7 B$286.6 M3.3
Other Contractural ServicesDepartment of Veterans Affairs$3.1 B$276.3 M8.9
Federal Crop InsuranceDepartment of Agriculture$5.2 B$246.6 M4.7
Federal Employee Retirement ProgramsOffice of Personnel Management$69.8 B$235.9 M0.3
Supplies and MaterialsDepartment of Veterans Affairs$1.6 B$221.1 M13.8
EducationDepartment of Veterans Affairs$10.3 B$216.2 M2.1
Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Vendor Error ComponentDepartment of Agriculture$4.6 B$192.0 M4.2
Federal Employee Health Benefit ProgramOffice of Personnel Management$40.5 B$151.7 M0.4
Detention and Removal OperationsDepartment of Homeland Security$1.3 B$108.0 M8.3
State Home Per Diem GrantsDepartment of Veterans Affairs$713.2 M$97.6 M13.7
Disaster Assistance LoansSmall Business Administration$339.6 M$96.3 M28.4
Civilian PayDepartment of Defense$58.7 B$90.9 M0.2
Foster Care-Title IV-EDepartment of Health and Human Services$1.4 B$72.1 M5.2
Vocational Rehabilitation/EmploymentDepartment of Veterans Affairs$819.6 M$57.4 M7.0
PensionDepartment of Veterans Affairs$4.6 B$46.2 M1.0
HeadStartDepartment of Health and Human Services$7.2 B$44.1 M0.6
7(a) Business LoansSmall Business Administration$2.4 B$40.7 M1.7
FAA Airport Improvement ProgramDepartment of Transportation$3.9 B$34.6 M0.9
Military Health BenefitsDepartment of Defense$12.6 B$30.2 M0.2
Federal Protective ServiceDepartment of Homeland Security$811.0 M$27.0 M3.3
USAID Twenty Seven Program AreasU.S. Agency for International Development$16.4 B$26.8 M0.2
Conservation ReserveDepartment of Agriculture$1.6 B$26.5 M1.7
Assistance to FirefightersDepartment of Homeland Security$385.0 M$19.8 M5.1
Military Retirement BenefitsDepartment of Defense$42.2 B$18.9 M0.0
Disaster Relief Fund Vendor PaymentsDepartment of Homeland Security$582.0 M$17.0 M2.9
Small Business Investment Centers (SBIC)Small Business Administration$1.4 B$16.7 M1.2
Marketing Assistance LoanDepartment of Agriculture$3.1 B$15.9 M0.5
FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter ProgramDepartment of Homeland Security$201.0 M$15.3 M7.6
Rental AssistanceDepartment of Agriculture$1,000.0 M$15.1 M1.5
Clean & Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF)Environmental Protection Agency$3.6 B$14.2 M0.4
Child and Adult Care Food - FDC Homes-Tiering ComponentDepartment of Agriculture$896.0 M$13.7 M1.5
National Flood Insurance ProgramDepartment of Homeland Security$1.1 B$13.0 M1.2
Workforce Investment Act (WIA)Department of Labor$4.1 B$12.4 M0.3
Farm Security & Rural InvestmentDepartment of Agriculture$1.4 B$11.4 M0.8
Public Assistance ProgramsDepartment of Homeland Security$3.5 B$11.0 M0.3
Background InvestigationsOffice of Personnel Management$695.4 M$10.8 M1.6
Title I - Grants to StatesOffice of Personnel Management$17.9 B$9.0 M0.1
Non-insured AssistanceDepartment of Agriculture$90.0 M$8.1 M9.0
Farm Service DisasterDepartment of Agriculture$235.0 M$6.7 M2.9
Homeland Security Grant ProgramDepartment of Homeland Security$1.5 B$5.0 M0.3
USCG Active Duty Military PayrollDepartment of Homeland Security$2.9 B$4.0 M0.1
Milk Income LossDepartment of Agriculture$182.0 M$3.6 M2.0
CBP Custodial Refund & DrawbackDepartment of Homeland Security$1.2 B$3.0 M0.3
Direct & Counter-Cyclical PaymentsDepartment of Agriculture$3.9 B$2.1 M0.1
USACE Travel PayDepartment of Defense$212.0 M$2.1 M1.0
Individuals & Households ProgramDepartment of Homeland Security$679.0 M$2.0 M0.3
Transit Security Grants ProgramDepartment of Homeland Security$109.0 M$0.8 M0.7
Federal Employee Life Insurance ProgramOffice of Personnel Management$2.6 B$0.5 M0.0
InsurancesOffice of Personnel Management$1.6 B$0.2 M0.0
Error rate information for some programs may be slightly different than the error rates reported in USDA’s FY 2011 PARData is for FY2011