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Hard to trust an agency that says your dead, when you're not

The Social Security Administration has been around a long time. So has the disability benefits trust fund. You might think that with that legacy, the government would have managed to figure out how to be sure its records are accurate. That would seem to be doubly true considering how much money flows through the SSA coffers.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case. There are many people fighting to obtain Social Security disability benefits to which they are entitled. Often they have faced initial denials because the agency says they haven't supplied the right information. The appeals process can be laborious. In the meantime, the recipient can be struggling.

In some cases, the struggle is made worse by shortcomings in the SSA's archaic database systems. For example, back in March, the SSA Inspector General reported that there more than 6 million people in the country 112 years or older with active Social Security numbers. There's no evidence that any Social Security benefits are being paid out to those numbers, but they may be being used for other types of fraud.

And then there is the agency's own estimate that as many as 1,000 people a month may be mistakenly being recorded as dead on the agency's Death Master File. That might be funny, except for what happens to the individuals affected. Getting things squared away can be a nightmare as it reportedly was for a woman in another state. While she doesn't live in California, it's likely someone here has shared her experience.

The retired nurse had been collecting Social Security disability payments by direct deposit until February 2014 when she was denied access to her checking account. She was informed that she had been declared dead and that if that was wrong she should get to her local Social Security office to get things corrected. It didn't help.

She says she visited the office dozens of times over five months. She provided documentation from a doctor she visits every month because of her disability. She got bounced around from person to person. A supervisor promised to call but never did.

The woman ran out of money, couldn't pay her bills and nearly lost her home. She only got relief through the intercession of one of her U.S. senators.

In the end, she got all her back payments, but she never got an apology from the SSA.

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Melissa A. Proudian, Attorney at Law
1500 W. Shaw Avenue, Suite 403
Fresno, CA 93711

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