Social security 'mistake' lists living man as dead, freezes his health benefits




Posted on November 21, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 22 at 2:25 AM

ALLEN –  The Thanksgiving holiday nearly turned into a week of worry for the Smith family of Collin County.

Their aging father went to the hospital Tuesday very much alive. Then, they found out the Social Security Administration considered him dead, freezing all his health benefits

Eighty-five-year-old Herman Smith's daughter, Sallie Smith, couldn't believe what she heard from Social Security, "I came unglued.  I was in total shock.  I was like, what?  What are you talking about?" 

Smith lives at Victoria Gardens nursing home in Allen, according to his daughter. He became unresponsive Tuesday and entered Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

A check by the hospital of Smith's Medicaid and Medicare eligibility turned up a surprise, the daughter says. The benefits were on hold because Social Security claimed he was dead.

Alarmed, Sallie Smith called Social Security and says she was told a representative would need to personally visit the hospital and see that her father was alive. 

"She said it would be like Wednesday, the 28th, and I'm like, you know, my daddy is alive, I want this resolved as soon as possible."

After a call from News 8, Social Security confirmed it made an error, possibly by a keystroke entering Smith's Social Security number for another beneficiary's death.

Social Security spokeswoman Charlie Brittian in Dallas called the situation, "Just a mistake and very unfortunate. We apologize. It is not our intent to cause any uproar or suffering.  We will do our very best to get this fixed."

Social Security confirmed Herman Smith is alive late Wednesday through the hospital. 

His daughter, though, is still shaken. 

"No one should have to go through what I went through yesterday," she said. "No one."

The Social Security spokeswoman says when there's a question if a beneficiary is alive the law requires a personal visit.

Smith's daughter did everything right by calling promptly, the spokeswoman says. However, a Social Security representative should have told her that the confirmation visit would be immediate –– not next week.