Brooklyn woman spends year trying to prove she's alive after being declared dead

Josh Einiger Image
Monday, November 12, 2018
Woman declared dead spends year trying to prove she's alive
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Josh Einiger has the exclusive story of a Brooklyn woman mistakenly declared dead.

GREENPOINT, Brooklyn (WABC) -- For a woman in Brooklyn, the good news is that she's alive. The bad news is that she's been locked in a year-long battle to prove she's not dead.

Over the weekend, Marzena Pogorzelska celebrated a most unusual anniversary - one year since the day she 'died'.

"And after a whole entire year, they still cannot put me back to life," she said.

It was hard enough to believe when we first met Marzena earlier this year.

She had been cut off from health insurance, her credit frozen, all because of an error by the Social Security Administration, linking her Social Security number to someone who actually had died.

It's been quite a story to tell.

"People look at me like I'm not all there, or they look at me like wow, this is like a Lifetime movie," she said.

When Eyewitness News first reported on Marzena, the federal government apologized and issued a letter for her to show creditors, saying she had been wrongly shown as deceased.

But still, every month she gets letters from one of her banks: "Please accept our condolences for the loss of Marzena Pogorzelska", freezing her accounts all over again.

Her name evidently made it onto a national registry of dead people, meant to prevent identity theft by locking their Social Security numbers. And it works.

"It's crazy, sometimes I wake up in the morning and say oh God, here's another day," said Marzena.

She says the stress of it all almost killed her for real. She suffered a heart attack over the summer and now her insurance won't cover the $45,000 hospital bill because, you guessed it, on paper she was already dead.

And now with the close of another year, it's almost time for this small business owner to file her tax return, which of course poses more questions.

"Even my accountant does not know what the IRS will ask for in this situation, because last year we filed for 2017 so I was only dead for two months," she said. "Now I'm dead for the whole year so we don't know."

Death and taxes are about the only constants in her very real life.

We reached out to the agency that keeps track of the registry of people who died. But we didn't get a response - because of the holiday.


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