Harlem man loses savings, benefits after Social Security wrongly declares him dead

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Thursday, July 27, 2023
7 On Your Side: Harlem man loses savings, benefits after being wrongly declared dead
A retiree from Harlem found himself in a life-and-death struggle with the Social Security Administration until 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda stepped in to help.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A retiree from Harlem has been in a life-and-death struggle with the Social Security Administration.

More than a month ago, the federal agency declared the man dead. The problem is he's alive and well.

But in the meantime, his bank account was frozen and his benefits were shut down. So it was up to 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda to resurrect him.

Charles L. Jones, all 6 foot 7 of him is very much alive, but according to the Social Security Administration the avid reader and art collector died.

He started getting letters addressed to his "estate" last May and the mix-up wreaked havoc on the retired teacher's benefits and froze all his bank accounts.

"There was a death notice sent to the bank and all my funds were gone," he said.

That's because once a bank gets notified of a person's death, it freezes all deposits.

Jones had marched down to the SSA office in Harlem after getting the alarming letters

"The guy at Social Security said I was flagged as being deceased, he did not tell me how," Jones said.

He was told the problem would be corrected within two days, but two weeks later, his accounts were overdrawn, and he was still declared dead.

"I've been really hurt by it all, just destroyed at times because I'm constantly thinking about it and constantly thinking I may not have the money I worked for," Jones said.

7 On Your Side went to Social Security to help bring him back to life, and while we were doing his interview, the rebirth of Charles L. Jones got underway.

Both the SSA and the bank acknowledged that they made mistakes and apologized for the inconvenience. Neither could say why Jones wound up on the SSA's death list, but right after we got involved, they restored his benefits and his bank account.

SSA sent Jones a letter stating he's "alive," permanently removing the incorrect record stating he was deceased.

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