Woman Mistakenly Declared Dead By Social Security

Woman's Benefit's Delayed

An 80-year-old Bakersfield woman on a fixed income says she had her Social Security benefits suddenly cut off after the government accidentally declared her dead.

Verlene Watkins lives in a small apartment in southwest Bakersfield. She gets by on a Social Security check every month.

"When you get the little amount we get, you need every penny of it just to live," Watkins said.

Watkins said the problems started after her oldest son, Kenneth, died in October and there was some sort of mixup at the Social Security Administration. She said she went to the Social Security office to deal with the problem and was told she had been declared dead.

"She said, ‘Well, we got both y'all dead,’" Watkins said.

Watkins said she also got a Social Security check to help her care for her other adult son, Steven, who had cerebral palsy. But Steven also died earlier this week.

"Me and my son both get Social Security and (Supplemental Security Income)," Watkins said.

But Watkins said when Kenneth died, both she and Steven were mistakenly declared dead and all the money stopped.

She said the shock of the news took a toll on Steven.

"It hard for me to take the fact that you going to tell me I’m dead, and I’m not. What do you think it does to somebody that has a mental problem?" Watkins said.

She said Social Security told her everything would be fixed, but when November came, there was no check.

“She said, ‘Next month it'll be all straightened out.’ Come December the first, it was the same thing: no checks," Watkins said.

Then, just before Christmas, Steven fell and suffered brain damage. He died Monday. That was also the day Verlene was supposed to get her January check but, again, it didn't show.

23ABC called Social Security to see what the problem was. Representatives said they couldn't discuss Watkin’s case specifically but said they'd fix it. Watkins said she still can’t understand how the government could declare a living person dead.

"I couldn't understand how they could get two people dead. If they got it mixed up with the one, how do you get two people dead from one dead?" Watkins said.

The Social Security Administration said cases like this are rare, but when they do happen it focuses on getting the problem fixed as quickly as possible.

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