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Proving You're Not Dead Isn't as Easy as it Sounds

Jan. 4, 2017

"The Walking Dead" is a popular show, for good reason. However, proving one is alive - after being declared dead - has little entertainment value.

Ask Andy Kirchin, 56, of Gravesend, England. While visiting his brother in South Africa last year he received a distressed phone call from his daughter back in England. She had received a letter from the town council saying he had died. I'm sure she was immediately relieved at hearing his voice. What started out though, as a humorous mistake, soon stopped being funny. Soon after that letter, his pension stopped. When he called the U.K. Department for Work and Pensions to ask why, he says the representative responded, "Well, that's because you are dead."

"I answered: 'Well, I'm not.'" Kirchin said that having to persuade various government officials that he was alive was the strangest experience he ever had.

But he is not alone. Nearly 10,000 living people are mistakenly being declared as dead each year in the U.S. alone, often with no reason more sinister that a clerk pressing the wrong key on a computer. The U.S. Social Security Administration is quick to point out that the wrongful "deaths" amount to less than one-half of 1% of all cases. They are listed in the agency's "Death Master File."

In the United States in the spring of 2014, Joseph Kane's wife received a letter of condolence from the Department of Veteran Affairs. Kane, an Air Force veteran was living, quite literally, with his wife in Florida. He took the matter up with his congressman, Republican David Jolly, who has helped other people erroneously declared deceased. The congressman wrote a letter to the Air Force to let officials know that Kane was still alive.

Kane, 79, still had to visit the local Veterans Affair office. After checking his documents, a VA official attached a note to his file: "Vet came in person to Room 222 to verify that he is not deceased." She underlined "person" twice. He thereafter became officially alive in the VA files.

But there is little publicity about this growing issue - the effort to come fully back to life. The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center even created a special "Death Reported in Error" form to help those who have wrongly been identified as dead.

If you are part of the 1% of the living dead, it can be quite an ordeal.

Read more at If the Government Thinks You’re Dead, That’s Really Hard to Fix