Yet, a shocking number of Americans have to find this out the hard way; by at least one official estimate, the government incorrectly declares 35 Americans dead every single day.
The problem begins at the Social Security Administration, keeper of most of the records tabulating deaths in the United States. Like other government agencies, the IRS, with whom Todd has most recently tangled, relies upon Social Security’s database, said Dan Boone, a spokesman for the IRS.
When Social Security determines that an eligible current or future beneficiary has died, it closes the person’s entry in its Case Processing and Management System, or CPMS.
The system is only as good as the data it receives. Sometimes, that isn’t very good.
Todd, for example, was killed when someone in Florida died and her Social Security number was accidentally typed in. Since then, her tax returns have repeatedly been rejected, and her bank closed her credit card account.
“One time when I [was] ruled dead, they canceled my health insurance because it got that far,” she said.
Toni Anderson of Muncie, Ind., expired when someone in the government pushed the wrong button, making the records declare that it was she, not her husband, John, who died Nov. 8.
Social Security even sent this letter: “Dear Mr. Anderson, our condolences on the loss of Mrs. Anderson.”
In September 2006, the inspector general’s office tried to get a fix on how many people Social Security was improperly killing off by reviewing updates to the agency’s Death Master File.
In all, Social Security officials had to “resurrect” 23,366 people from January 2004 to September 2005. In other words, over a period of 21 months, Social Security was presented with irrefutable evidence that it had been “killing” more than 1,100 people a month, or more than 35 a day.
Two months later, in November 2006, the inspector general looked specifically at 251 cases of people to whom the agency continued to issue checks even though Medicare records said they were dead.
“Of the 251 individuals in our population, 86 are deceased and their SSI payments should be terminated,” the audit said. “The remaining 165 beneficiaries were actually alive and their Medicare benefits—and, in some cases, their SSI payments—were incorrectly terminated.”
Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan