Missouri woman wrongly declared dead in 2007 says it’s been hard to prove that she is alive

Stephen Nartey September 28, 2023
Woman wrongly declared dead. Photo: KSDK News / YouTube screenshot

A Missouri mom says her life has been a possible error that was caused some two decades ago. In 2007, Madeline-Michelle Carthen was erroneously declared dead by social security managers. Ever since this mistake was committed, the 52-year-old mother has never been the same.

Now she is unable to hold down a job, secure a mortgage, or rent an apartment as a result of a mistake that was committed on her social security number. Her woes began during her days as a student at Webster University when she faced a significant setback after her application for financial aid was rejected, leading to her dropping out of the institution.

At the time, she was getting ready for a summer internship in Ghana when she received the shocking news that her social security number was linked to a deceased person. Her financial aid adviser had found that Carthen’s Social Security number listed her as deceased. Initially dismissing it as a simple mistake, she even laughed at the absurdity of the situation. School officials told her that she would have to withdraw until the situation was fixed.

She contacted the Social Security Administration and found that she had been added to the Social Security Administration’s death master file. She was given a death erroneous letter to give to credit bureaus to prove that she is not dead. 

“Well, it got worse, because it wasn’t creditors. Being in the death master file, it went to the IRS, it went to the Department of Homeland Security, it went to E-verify, all of these things. It just started affecting my life,” she said.

Indeed, officials say that when someone is incorrectly added to the Social Security Administration’s deceased list, their identity is erased from various vital institutions such as banks, the IRS, and Medicare. This situation can profoundly affect every facet of an individual’s life

Carthen described the impact of this setback on her life, explaining it has ruined her life. She said this has placed significant financial repercussions, including her inability to pursue goals like buying a house, according to the Daily Mail.

She said she now deals with the recurrent ordeal of proving she is not dead. She explained that whenever her Social Security number is processed, it leads to complications with payroll processing, often resulting in her losing her job. Her paperwork and credit reports have wrongly labeled her as deceased.

Unfortunately, Carthen is not alone in facing this issue, as Smithsonian Magazine reports that more than 12,000 living Americans are mistakenly classified as deceased each year, often due to minor typographical errors that can lead to devastating consequences for the victims.

For nearly two decades, Carthen has been grappling with this persistent issue, seeking clarity and direct answers but finding none.

In 2019, she took legal action against the Social Security Administration and several other government agencies, demanding more than $12 million in damages. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, citing sovereign immunity as the government’s protection against such claims.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 28, 2023


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