Action 9

‘I don’t feel dead’: Seminole County woman struggles to get stimulus money after being wrongfully listed as deceased

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — A woman lost her stimulus check and other benefits after a federal agency listed her as dead.

The mistake by the Social Security Administration even threatened her good credit.

Marsha French and her husband followed all the pandemic guidelines to stay healthy. But that failed to protect them from the Social Security Administration.

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Three weeks ago, she discovered the agency had listed her as deceased in March.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god how could that be?’ I don’t feel dead,” French said.

She discovered that proving she is alive would be difficult and painful.​

Her monthly social security payment disappeared. Then, pandemic stimulus checks for the couple were rejected because the bank closed her account after it was notified French had died.

“I can't pay bills out of that account and I have to rearrange all of that. I don't know. I don't like it,” French said.

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According to the Social Security Administration, about 6,000 people a year are mistakenly declared dead.

Basically, a death certificate is issued with a social security number that has one wrong digit.

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French said she was told the Social Security Administration had reduced hours and staffing, and that caused new delays.

“It's preventing someone who isn't dead from proving that,” said consumer attorney Jared Lee.

Lee said usually these mistaken deceased cases are cleared up when a person visits the local agency offices with official documents, like passports and driver’s licenses.

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He said the pandemic can cause serious delays and could even cripple someone's credit rating.

“If there is any indication that she is deceased on credit reports, that needed to be disputed and corrected immediately,” Lee said.

Since French contacted Action 9, the Social Security Administration brought her back to life online.

The agency has not responded to Action 9’s questions so far.

“It's been frustrating and time consuming. I'm worried it will affect other things in my life,” French said.

For anyone facing identity issues now, there is special relief to keep track of your credit. For the next year, credit bureaus will offer a free credit report every week so you can protect your finances.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich,

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.