'I'm not dead': One man's message to the Social Security Administration

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- When George Blevins was turned down for a loan, he found out it was because he'd already passed away.

He'd been declared dead. And it may surprise you to know mix ups like this happen to 14,000 people a year somewhere in America.

It's a simple mistake that kills more than 50 people a day, like George Blevins of Maynardville.

Blevins is 61, but the government pronounced him dead at 40.

"Makes it hard on a man when you go to make a loan, something," Blevins said. "They check it on the computer, 'You're deceased!'"

He was denied a loan - his disability payments. Medicare even refused to pay his hospital bill.

"I called the Social Security Board when he was in the hospital. Said his Medicare wouldn't pay for that," said his sister, Evelyn Kirkland. "I asked them why and they said, he was deceased!"

Kirkland tried to get the bottom of it. "I said, 'You can go to the hospital and go see him, he's in the hospital.'"

She found his death date listed as November 4, 1989. That's the day his mother died. The post office returned her social security check and his.

"[The Social Security Administration] told me his check was sent back and it was wrote (sic) on the envelope, 'Deceased.' I said, 'He ain't deceased. It was my mother,'" said Kirkland.

To fix it, they asked George to show up. Local officials needed to see him in the flesh.

"They wanted to see him and touch him, and see if he was alive," she said. "I said, 'How do you expect anyone to walk in here dead?'"

"Gave them my ID told them I was alive and I was George Blevins," said Blevins.

About 2.8 million Americans are reported dead each year. And a recent government report shows one in 200 are false. Those people, like George, are very much alive.

"There could be cases where we've erroneously terminated someone," said Frank Vieria, who works in public affairs at the Social Security Administration.

"I mean it is rare that we get mistakes on the file, but they do happen. Since we get the information from various sources, sometimes the information is incorrect that's given to us," said Vieria.

That information comes from death certificates, family, funeral homes, postal branches, veterans services and other state and federal agencies.

"And unfortunately, sometimes just human error. A typo, something like that," said Vieria, can also cause an error.

Local 8 News asked why doesn't the government just rely on death certificates? The answer: time. The various reports help Social Security stop and start benefits faster.

It took eight months to bring George Blevins back from the dead, and longer for him to get back pay.

Blevins has survived a brain aneurysm, even colon cancer. So, he's not going to let a typo bring him down.

"I'm not in the ground. Not yet," he said.

Apart from the hassle of getting this fixed, there's one more danger: identity theft.

Once you're declared dead, the National Technical Information Service, part of the US Department of Commerce, publishes your name, address and in some cases your social security number all in one place.

It's meant to protect you against fraud. But when there's a mistake, you're a target. You can contact the local social security office to check your status. The Knoxville Office can be reached at 1-866-331-9091.


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