WEATHERFORD (CBS 11 NEWS) – The third Wednesday in November came, but nothing came with it. It was missing. That social security check that was always there for Von Dunn, wasn’t there this time.
He chalked it up to a busy mail system, clogging up before the holidays. Then on the day he decided to call and see what was going on, something appeared in the mailbox. The address on the envelope was his first clue. It was sent to the “Family” of Von Dunn.
The retired college professor opened the letter and discovered the Social Security Administration, considered him deceased. At 73, it was a bit earlier than Dunn had expected.
“Some funeral home somewhere screwed up,” Dunn told us. “And I want to know who it was.”
Dunn is one of about 1,000 people a month added to the SSA’s Death Master List in error.
An Inspector General report delivered to the US House Ways and Means Committee in February notes that when it happens, people can lose benefits, have severe financial hardships, and even have their information available to criminals.
The records are available publicly, the result of a 1978 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. As Dunn found though, the records are not always accurate, and if not corrected quickly, the problems begin to snowball.
One week later Dunn’s wife Shea received condolences from the Employees Retirement System of Texas. When she went online to refill his prescriptions, his account was closed.
Dunn called the local SSA office, which told him he would have to come down personally to prove his identity.
Dunn said an employee had to search for it, but eventually found a form for the problem: I _____ came into the Ft. Worth Downtown office this date and provided identification to show that I am not deceased. I request that my benefits be reinstated.
He had to provide two forms of ID, and he was back among the living. A check arrived within a few days.
Dunn still doesn’t know how he ended up on the list.
An SSA employee wrote on his form than a funeral home in Abilene reported him deceased.
Local officials told CBS11 its often a clerical error. They’re not always able to track down how the report happened.
Dunn said he realizes that everything from driving, to medical benefits relies on proper identification, and is aware the problem may return to haunt him.
“That’s why we want to get this story out,” he said. “Because so many other people are in this fix.”
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