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Thousands of People Wrongfully Deemed Dead by SSA

Published on October 17th, 2011

As mentioned in the previous blog, the Social Security Administration was found to be paying benefits to deceased people. Now, a new investigation shows those same officials in charge of Social Security Disability and other government benefit programs under SSA falsely report each year more than 14,000 people who are very much alive. And if that is not enough, it appears that more than one-third of the errors involve citizens of Illinois.

An investigation has revealed the reason for the mistakes is clerical error in inputting the information. Approximately one in every 200 entries is incorrect. And no one is quite sure why Illinois appears to have more than its fair share of living Americans that SSA has declared dead. This all came to light when the Scripps Howard News Service (SHNS) obtained the records under the Freedom of Information Act and promptly found almost 32,000 Americans who were inappropriately listed.

But the fact is that these incidents of false reporting can lead to all sorts of problems as the individuals continue to try to live. Victims have been denied mortgage and college loans, refused credit cards and encountered difficulty getting apartment leases. One individual was detained by the police for several hours after using a debit card. On Sept. 26, SHNS delivered to the SSA the names of 461 Illinois residents falsely listed as dying in 2007, some 40 percent of the false reports they detected for that year.

Correct reporting is important not simply because it affects the benefits that people receive but also because it can affect them as they go about their daily lives in a credit-restricted world. And if someone is wrongly listed as dead by the SSA, they may not get the benefits to which they are entitled.

Source: The Republic, “Social Security chief concedes ‘havoc’ for those wrongly deemed dead by agency,” Thomas Hargrove, Sept. 27, 2011

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