Can the Social Security Administration Declare Me Dead?

Imagine going to apply for a new driver’s license only to discover that the government thinks you are dead—this has actually happened to some people recently. Photo of Social Security cards

CNN had an interesting story recently about how the Social Security Administration may be experiencing issues with files declaring some Americans dead. According to the news outlet, the SSA receives about 2.8 million death reports each year. Unfortunately, of these, an estimated 14,000, or about one in every 200 reports, is incorrectly entered into the agency’s Death Master File (DMF).

The DMF contains the Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, death dates, zip codes and addresses for more than 87 million dead Americans, CNN reported. If your number erroneously ends up in the DMF, it can be a tremendous burden.

“Some members of the Social Security’s “undead” are getting crucial government benefits cut off out of the blue, others are being blocked from using their bank accounts, while others are unable to renew their driver’s licenses or apply for credit,” CNN reported.

One woman CNN talked to discovered that she was declared dead after she went to get a new driver’s license. An agent reportedly told her that she needed to visit her local Social Security office to alleviate the issue—officials there reportedly told her she was declared dead because of a “keystroke error.”

After this, the woman had to wait three months before she was able to get her Social Security retirement check and a new driver’s license.

In addition to people experiencing problems when they are attempting to get items like licenses and credit lines, tax thieves have victimized some. CNN reported that identity thieves often use the numbers of recently deceased people to file tax returns to get refunds.

The SSA said that it is doing what it can to address mistakes, saying that the error rates are actually quite low.

“While the error rate is an extremely low percentage, we acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to get to a zero-percent rate and any person affected by an error faces inconvenience and potential hardships,” the agency said in a statement.

Are You Experiencing Issues with Your Social Security Number? Do You Fear Identity Theft?

Last week, we discussed the various ways you can protect your Social Security number to ensure that you are not a victim of identity theft.

Remember, if you are worried that your number may have been stolen or updated wrong by the SSA, you should monitor your credit reports, as you can setup fraud alerts with credit monitoring services. Additionally, you can visit the local SSA office and speak to a representative.

While this news may be alarming, it should not keep you from applying for Social Security benefits if you are disabled or older. If you are interested in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or you have questions about the process, you can visit our FAQ page.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys


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