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Errors in SSA death list cause loss of benefits, part two

Earlier this week, we talked about the all-too-frequent occurrence of the Social Security Administration erroneously marking a benefits recipient as dead when they are, in fact, very much alive. According to an investigation by the Social Security Office of the Inspector General, there were almost 37,000 improper entries into the Death Master File between May of 2007 and April of 2010.

A recipient of Social Security Disability, retirement or other benefits who is improperly marked as "dead" in the SSA record book will likely find themselves without the benefits they have come to rely on. However, simply alerting the SSA of their error may not be enough to reverse the mistake.

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends several steps for people who have been erroneously added to the SSA Death Master File. First, find out who reported you as dead to the SSA. Often, this will be a funeral home director or other person responsible for completing and submitting a death certificate who has accidentally entered an incorrect Social Security Number or other identifying information on the certificate.

Next, get a copy of your death certificate from the county, and complete and submit the correct form to amend the certificate to indicate that you are not, in fact, dead. Either you or the county will likely need to contact the funeral home director or whoever signed the death certificate so they can also sign the amendment form.

When you have the amended death certificate, make an appointment at a Social Security branch office to remove your name from the Death Master File. Bring a photo ID and your amended certificate. Once your name is off the list, you may need to contact banks or other financial institutions so they will accept and release SSA benefit payments to you.

According to SSA spokesman Mark Hinkle, people who are deprived benefits may not have to follow all of those steps. "It normally involves seeing the person face-to-face and verifying some form of current ID," he said. "We take these situations seriously and wish they didn't happen at all, but when we find out it has occurred, we find out it has occurred, we help the person fix it."

Source: CNN Money, "Social Security mistakenly reports thousands of deaths," Blake Ellis, August 17, 2011

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