WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVN) -- A recent audit from the Government Accountability Office found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given millions of dollars worth of subsidies to farmers who are dead.

“Former President Reagan famously said, ‘A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.’ Apparently, being a recipient of federal spending can also bring eternal life,” said Sen. Rob Portman.

The investigation found that the Farm Service Agency, which provides traditional farm subsidies, has paid $3.3 million to deceased farmers since 2007. Since 2008, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has made $10.6 million in payments on behalf of 1,103 individuals who at the time had already been dead for more than a year. At the same time, Portman says the USDA’s crop insurance program granted $22 million in subsidies and allowances to more than 3,400 policy holders who been dead for at least two years.

Portman's office says the federal government has actually paid out more than $1 billion to nearly 173,000 dead people since 1999.

The 2008 Farm Bill required the USDA to cross-check the names of those getting paid with he Social Security Administration's list of people who had died, however that hasn't fully be implemented, according to Portman.

Portman says it's not just the USDA that has been paying the dead. He says the 2009 federal stimulus law included $18 million in "economic recovery payments" to 72,000 dead people and another $4.3 million to 17,000 prison inmates.

He's pushing government agencies to cross-check the names on checks with the Social Security Administration's master list to make sure they are still living.