Woman mistakenly declared dead by Social Security

Debra Steed, Social Security Administration
After the Social Security Administration accidentally marked Debra Steed of Lakeview as dead, she had to fight to prove she is still alive. (May 9, 2017)

LAKEVIEW, Mich. (WOOD) — A woman from Lakeview who was declared dead by the Social Security Administration is very much alive. But because the government said otherwise, her bank account and credit were locked out and she stopped getting her Social Security check.

The mistake happens more often than you might think — about 7,400 people each year are affected — and it can have lasting effects.

“They told me that I was deceased as of April 19th, 2017,” Debra Steed told Target 8.

“I hope this isn’t a premonition,” she added.

Steed said she noticed something was wrong last month when her credit card was declined at the grocery store.

“I thought that maybe just had stopped working the magnetic strip,” she recalled.

She contacted her bank. They ordered her a new card but it still didn’t work. So the bank did some digging and figured out the problem.

“‘We found out that Social Security said you were deceased,’” Steed said the bank told her.

She was understandably shocked.

“I didn’t know whether to throw up or cry. I was floored,” she said.

She called the Social Security Administration. It confirmed her ‘deceased’ status and she was told to head to the closest Social Security office immediately. She proved her identification and the office sent her bank a letter stating that she is alive.

But the problem wasn’t solved. When she checked online, she was still listed as dead. As a result, all of her insurance and credit cards were tied up — and perhaps more importantly, her Social Security checks stopped coming through.

“They’ll tell you kind of what you want to hear, I think,” Steed said. “That this will be OK by tomorrow. Then you wait until tomorrow, you start checking and it’s still not OK.”

She called and checked online every day for a week and there was no change, so she reached out to Target 8.

“I want Social Security to make me alive,” a frustrated Steed said.

Target 8 got involved Tuesday and contacted the Social Security Administration. A few hours later, Steed got a call from the Social Security office notifying her that the problem was fixed.

“I can’t tell you how thankfully I am,” Steed said.

Steed was told the problem was an employee error — that someone most likely put in the wrong Social Security number. She was also told that she will get her Social Security check in the next few days.

Target 8 did some research and learned it takes some people months to fix the problem and it can have lasting negative financial effects.