Eighty-one-year-old, Dolores Cooper, is dealing with great financial troubles by Social Security for its own mistake. Dolores contacted Social Security on September 19, 2018, to inform that her husband, Jimmy, passed away two days prior to the call. Unfortunately for Dolores, the Social Security staffer incorrectly typed that Jimmy died on September 17, 2017, rather than the actual date, September 17, 2018.

One week after Dolores’ call, SSA sent a notice, informing her that Jim was overpaid by $22,533 and that Dolores was now responsible to make repayment. Was Jim actually overpaid? No – this typo triggered Social Security’s computer system to recognize that Jimmy “had been paid benefits for a year when he was actually dead,” though he wasn’t.

Dolores called SSA the following day, September 27. After waiting 1.5 hours to talk with someone, she was finally connected with Aileen. Aileen discovered the mistake and asked Dolores to bring Jimmy’s death certificate to the Modesto, CA office.  According to Aileen, it would take up to two months to resolve the issue. On October 5, Dolores brought the death certificate to the Modesto office and finally spoke to Mike Wylie after waiting for three hours.

“Mike assured my mom he would make sure the issue was corrected. In the meantime, my mom started receiving tens of thousands of dollars of Jimmy’s medical bills as the incorrect date of death had propagated into the Medicare system and they stopped paying Jimmy’s medical bills and were asking for repayment of their payments,” Dolores’ son, Kim, said.  “My mom spent countless hours on the phone with Medicare and doctor/hospital billing departments dealing with the issue until it was finally fixed in November.”

SSA sent Dolores two notices on October 17. The first claimed they had used $17,226 of her benefits to recover part of the overpayment, though she still owed $5,307. Forbes reports that Social Security had “retroactively activated Dolores’ widows benefit to their incorrect start date, namely a year before Jimmy actually died.” Forbes went on to say, “Those widow’s benefits, which hadn’t been paid were, SSA said as cryptically as possible, being used to cover $17,226 of her bill.”

The second notice received, claimed that SSA “paid Dolores $24,324 for September 2017 through August 2018 but they should have only paid her $10,197 so she needs to refund $14,127 within 30 days. The notice also said the total amount of overpayment was $8,820. So in the same notice, two different amounts were given ($14,127 and $8,820) and on the same day, another notice stated $5,307,” according to Kim.

SSA made a direct deposit into Dolores’ checking account of $8,649 on November 5. Two days later, the SSA sent a notice claiming the deposit of $8,649 should have actually been for $3,342 and that she needed to return the extra amount of $5,307. After several phone calls trying to figure out where to send the check, Dolores finally sent a cashier’s check on November 23 via priority mail. According to USPS tracking, it was delivered on November 27.

On January 22, 2019, to quote Kim again, “Dolores received two SSA–1099s. One showing the amount of $22,533 the amount of the incorrect overpayment calculation due to Jimmy’s death being recorded in September 2017 instead of the correct date of September 2018. This amount was due to an error that should have never happened yet it is now being reported as income for Dolores.

He continued saying, “The second 1099 for Dolores shows the correct amount of the payments she received over the year plus the $8,649 that was deposited on November 5. It also shows several nonsensical numbers, including ‘other adjustment’ of $32,963 and a “repayment to SSA” of $36,769. So Dolores now has to struggle with how to correctly do her taxes and will potentially have to deal with the IRS in explaining the incorrect 1099 showing the erroneous $22,533.”

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