Federal officials are working to eliminate any fraud or mistakes from the government’s largest seniors benefits program through a massive review of payments and testing a new way to catch problems before they get into the system.
Government officials are in the midst of a large-scale, national review of existing old age security recipients with investigators contacting seniors to go over details like marital status, unreported departures from Canada or unreported deaths.
And in May, the government started testing a new, simplified application form for Old Age Security benefits to prevent any misunderstandings about eligibility — specifically the questions about residency where concerns have been raised about potential fraud.
The findings from the review and the application pilot project will feed into a larger strategy to modernize the old age security program and improve payment accuracy.
The department overseeing the program, Employment and Social Development Canada, says payments are accurate almost 99 per cent of the time.
But mistakes even one per cent of the time can mean hundreds of millions in mistaken payments: Old Age Security benefits are expected to cost the federal treasury about $51.1 billion this fiscal year, almost the combined total of payments this year through employment insurance and the Canada Child Benefit.
And the spending is expected to grow by about 5.7 per cent annually between now and 2021, faster than the projected increase in the size of the Canadian economy, based on forecasts in this year’s federal budget.
Under old age security rules, a person has to have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after they turn 18 and make their “home and ordinary lives in any part of Canada” to be eligible for payments.
This means more than a physical presence in Canada: A person may have properties in multiple countries, but only one of them is considered home, so the department evaluates how attached an…