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Call Kurtis Investigates: Social Security Erroneously Declares 9,000 Dead a Year

STOCKTON (CBS 13) -- Seventy-eight year old Elizabeth Passage said the Social Security Administration wrongfully declared her dead.

She was first alerted something was wrong when she was locked out her bank account. She then got a letter from her bank saying, "We are sorry to learn about the recent death of Elizabeth Passage."

"I'm not dead, I'm not dead," said Elizabeth.

For some reason, the Social Security Administration claimed she died and pulled her $1,260 monthly Social Security check from her bank. Then her bank locked her account leaving Elizabeth without access to her money.

"I was just shocked. What are you talking about? You are talking to me," said Elizabeth. Then her pension check and federal health insurance were both canceled.

"Two of my prescriptions were gone," said Elizabeth leaving her scrambling to get her medicine and pay her bills.

She spent 2-months trying to get anyone to listen.

"It's really outrageous," said Jamie Court with Consumer Watchdog.

CBS 13 has learned the Social Security Administration erroneously declares 9-thousand people dead a year. That's about 25-people a day. Court calls it a national scandal, especially with people like Elizabeth struggling to get the government to reincarnate them.

"There should be a special fast track procedure for people who have this type of complaint to have its voracity checked really quickly and for them to get back on track," said Court.

When someone dies, hospitals, funeral homes, banks and families are among those who pass along the death to Social Security. The death then ends up on something called the Death Master File, which is used to make sure checks aren't going out to the dead. Concerned too many sources can wrongfully report death information, Court is calling for a federal investigation. If Social Security can't fix it congress should," said Court.

CBS13 reached out to the Social Security Administration which insists "an erroneous death termination is rare" claiming it's 1/3 of 1% of the 2.8 million deaths reported a year.

In Elizabeth's case, they told us, "Due to the privacy act, we cannot discuss specifics of this case. However, the situation has been resolved."

Elizabeth says they told her a mortuary reported her dead. "I asked for a copy of the death certificate they said they can't send you that," she said.

Finally after two months, she's getting her Social Security checks. "I don't ever want to ever go through this again." said Elizabeth.

Social Security says it takes immediate steps to determine whether a report is accurate and restore payments if the beneficiary is alive.

Right now, according to Social Security Inspector General, Patrick O'Carroll, the Death Master File has about 86 million records and gets about 2 million records every year from the states.

According to O'Carroll, there were also no death records for 6.5 million people over the age 111. After an audit, he found people over 112 were opening up bank accounts.

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