Social Security Administration accidently declares some dead

  Terry Katz & Associates  |  June 16, 2012  | Last modified on October 17th, 2018 | 

Many in New York may be unaware that there is a Death Master File that keeps track of all of the deaths in the country each year. This file is maintained by the Social Security Administration, and its information is used by credit agencies, government programs and employers to, in part, guard against identity theft. Unfortunately, the SSA reports that there are about 1,000 incorrect listings on the Death Master File each month.

When a person is listed as deceased on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, their Social Security Number is discontinued. While this would seem to be a reasonable action for a deceased person, it’s not when the person having their number discontinued is not dead. Many problems can ensue as the individual seeks to prove that they are alive.

In fact, according to those who have had their Social Security Numbers discontinued mistakenly, the incorrect declaration that they are dead can lead to an inability to get credit, unemployment, and removal from important government benefit programs. And it can be difficult to get some agencies to correct the mistake. It sometimes takes months or even years to do so successfully.

In one recent case that may be of interest to New York readers, a woman receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration was mistakenly declared dead by the SSA. When that happened, she lost her benefit payments, and the ability to purchase important basics such as medicine. It took her at least seven months of effort to have her benefits restored. Hopefully, the SSA will come up with a better way of ensuring that the Death Master File is accurate.

Source:, “Famed ‘credit zombie’ resurrected, with lessons for anyone with an SSN,” Bob Sullivan, June 5, 2012

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