Imagine that you are a retiree enjoying your new found freedom. Even though you now have a more limited income -- only receiving a small stipend from the federal government for Social Security -- you manage to indulge once in awhile and take a trip every now and then. Upon returning home from one of these trips though, you discover a letter in the mail that turns your world upside down. It's a letter from the Social Security Administration and according to their records, you're dead.
Even though this scenario is completely fabricated for this post, the problem within it is a very real one. According to a 2011 article for CNN, nearly 14,000 people are mistakenly reported dead to the Social Security Administration. This can happen for a number of reasons including mistaken identity, and typing mistakes made at funeral homes or even the Administration's own offices. But even though it might look like a small mistake on paper, it creates a major problem for those it affects.
Take for example the recent case of an 81-year-old California woman who was declared dead by the Social Security Administration because, as she believes, her name is the same as her late husband's ex-wife. This seemingly innocuous mistake has created a plethora of problems though including the discontinuation of her Medicare plan and a decrease in the amount of monthly benefits her estate is supposed to receive.
From retirement benefits to health care coverage, being wrongfully declared dead can have a detrimental effect on an individual, their finances and their estate. As you can imagine, reporting the error should be done immediately as it can take weeks or even months to resolve the issue. You may also need legal representation, especially if the reporting of your death leads to complex legal issues regarding your estate, any benefits you are receiving, or even your identity.
Source: The Record Searchlight, "Much alive Anderson woman declared dead by Social Security," Alayna Shulman, March 30, 2015