Chicago Retiree Loses Benefits After Mistakenly Listed as Deceased

A spokesperson said a Chicago woman's Social Security record was terminated because of a keying error

Joyce Franklin of Chicago is clearly alive. So why did government records say otherwise?

“How could they make such a drastic mistake?” Franklin said in a recent interview with NBC 5 Responds.

Franklin said she first realized the mistake when she visited a doctor’s office last May.

“They told me I didn’t have Medicare,” Franklin said.

Two months earlier, Franklin’s daughter, Carrie, passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

“We went through a process with my sister passing away, so maybe they got things mixed-up,” said Franklin’s other daughter, Jennifer Aaron.

Franklin is retired and lives off a pension and her Social Security benefits. However, the government stopped issuing Franklin’s monthly benefits after it was reported that she was deceased.

According to Franklin, she immediately notified the Social Security Administration about the error and did what they requested to resolve the issue. But the payments did not start back up.

“Thank God for family because my family has helped me financially, tremendously,” Franklin said.

NBC 5 Responds contacted the local Social Security Administration office to inquire about Franklin’s benefits.

A spokesperson for the Social Security Administration told NBC 5 Responds that Franklin’s Social Security record was erroneously terminated due to a keying error.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused,” the spokesperson said.

The Social Security Administration explained to NBC 5 Responds in a 2016 report that it does not generation death information; rather, it collects it from a variety of sources like family members, funeral parlors, financial institutions and states.

When a mistake is made, that person’s most personal information – name, social security number and birth date – is released to a public database called the Death Master File. Once labeled in that file, accurately or not, a citizen’s information goes out to government and banking databases used for credit checks, Medicare and the like.

“Social Security recognizes erroneous death cases are very sensitive because a death termination can result in severe financial hardship and distress to the beneficiary,” the spokesperson said.

Still, the spokesperson said this type of error is rare. He said approximately 2.8 million deaths are reported to the Social Security Administration each year. He said less than one-third of 1 percent are subsequently corrected.

Franklin said after NBC 5 Responds got involved, she received a SSA benefits check for $999. She also said more of her benefits would be issued to her in the coming months.

“We’ve heard good things about Channel 5,” Franklin said.

The Social Security Administration said when a person suspects that he or she has been incorrectly listed as deceased on their Social Security record that person should visit their local Social Security office as soon as possible and bring at least one current form of identification with them. That could include a passport, driver’s license, state-issued non-driver identity card, employee ID card or military record.

Click here to find your nearest Social Security office. 

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