Every day in this country, more than 38 living, breathing Americans join the ranks of the living dead after their names somehow end up on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
“Erroneous death entries can lead to benefit termination, cause severe financial hardship and distress to affected individuals, and result in the publication of living individuals’ personal identifying information in the Death Master File,” the Inspector General said in its most recent evaluation of the database.
CNN tells the story of a Virginia woman who found out she’d been killed off by the SSA when her disability checks stopped coming and the checks she’d written for rent and student loan payments bounced.
She went to her bank to find out what was going on, only to be told she needed to prove she wasn’t a corpse. It’s not as easy as you might think. A visit to the Social Security office revealed that she’d been dead for more than a month and, in spite of her pulse and functioning lungs, she still had to submit pay stubs to prove her non-zombie status, during which time she incurred hundreds of dollars in fees for bounced checks. Even then, it still took two months for her to regain her not-dead status.
All because a funeral director goofed when entering a Social Security number on a death notice.
“It is unfortunate, but some of the death data that we post to our records … proves to be wrong and we correct it as soon as possible,” said a rep for the SSA. “Usually the error was inadvertently caused because of a human typing error when death information was entered into a computer system…. We take these situations seriously and wish they didn’t happen at all, but when we find out it has occurred, we help the person fix it.”
Social Security wrongly declares 14,000 people dead each year [Chicago Tribune]