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Government Mistakenly Declares Deaths of Citizens

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the totally-nonsensationalist-headline dept.

Government 361

superbrose writes "According to MSNBC, thousands of U.S. citizens have wrongfully been declared dead, due to an average of 35 data input errors per day by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Many other agencies rely on the data provided by the SSA, such as the IRS. People who have been wrongfully declared dead face many problems, such as rejection of tax returns, cancellation of health insurance, and closure of bank accounts. The article states, 'Input of an erroneous death entry can lead to benefit termination and result in financial hardship for a beneficiary.' Apparently it is far easier to declare a person's death than it is to correct the mistake. It continues, 'Social Security says an erroneous death record can be removed only when it is presented with proof that the original record was entered in error. The original error must be documented, and the deletion must be approved by a supervisor after "pertinent facts supporting reinstatement" are available in the system.'"

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Do you trust the government with your idenity? (5, Insightful)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615286)

Just wait until everybody has ID cards. Having your card cancelled by mistake is going to really ruin your day, month and quite probably, year.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615332)

Actually, ID helps in this case. The problem is what happens in a system in a corner room of some govt agency. But if you have an ID, it will be easier for you to prove you are alive - even if its canceled by mistake in a database.

BTW, I just love the procedure to un-dead the deads!

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (4, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615550)

No it won't help! If it did, I could walk in with some dead person's ID I stole and steal their identity.
This is a simple matter of the IRS not giving a damn. Same thing happens if your identity is stolen. It takes an act of God for them to issue you a new social security number.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (3, Funny)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615588)

That's right. Because you'll be able to just print a photo of yourself on sticker stock and paste it over the photo on the ID. It's really that simple, and that's why we've completely given up on using IDs for anything.

_Please_ notice the sarcasm intended.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615764)

I don't know anyone who looks like their passport photo. As long as you're the right gender and have the right skin color, you can probably get away with a surprising number of other differences.

Not to mention that a photo is not worth any more than the rigor with which they check it. Consider the similar case of signatures: I have signatures on my credit cards, which supposedly makes transactions more secure. Except it doesn't, because no shop clerk has ever, ever, actually compared my signature with the one on my card.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615592)

The IDs have a picture of you. Unless it's the ID of your dead twin, you'll probably not be able to claim it was you who's on that picture. That is, you'd have to counterfeit the ID.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615750)

My picture is of me when I was 15. I'm 26 now. Give me a break on the picture crap. If it's close, people generally don't question it. As for the poster above you, using ID to prove you have the ability to drive is one thing. Using it to bring a person back to life is different. They should, and are, treated differently. I'm not saying it should be hard to prove you're not dead, I'm just saying a single ID should not be the proof.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (3, Interesting)

maotx (765127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615774)

Actually, ID doesn't help.
This guy had a false death certificate [di2.nu] submitted for his name and is still having problems with it. He finally was able to get his accounts unfrozen, his marriage official, and a new ID card, but only after months of calls and visits to UK ID agency. To this day with his son, he still gets letters of "fraud detection" whenever they try to do something that piggy-backs on the ID system.


Google cache [64.233.169.104] as main page isn't currently loading for me.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615812)

He should contact Equifax and Experian directly and submit a Notice Of Correction onto his credit records (which also contain CIFAS checks for fraud).

He should probably get a lawyer to write the letter, including the proof, and suggest that failure to correct their records entirely will result in court action.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (3, Informative)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615784)

But if you have an ID, it will be easier for you to prove you are alive - even if its canceled by mistake in a database.

How? If the database says you are dead, when someone scans the barcode it still says you are dead. Even if a government employee sees you appear to be alive and look like th eperson on the card, its going to take paper work and procedure to get that changed because often the people that you talk with (especially at the IRS) are not empowered to do anything of real value in this situation other than fill out a form.

Secondly, I know people who look like nothing like license card. They gained weight, dyed their, had surgery, are sick, etc etc and have grief going into a bar much less deal with the government.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615352)

Whenever I ask my German friends, they say the national ID card is a great thing.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615390)

Europe is an interesting mixture of what in the US would be called left and right. For example, France, which is general considered quite to the left (Sarkozy aside for the moment) requires that a certain fixed percentage of all music played on the radio be in French. So you couldn't have an all Arabic music station. Americans would flip out if something like that was tried in the US because of the constitution.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615414)

Papieren bitte!

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (2, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615420)

It can be useful if, and only if, the appropriate protections are put in place.

Owing to Germany's history, there exists a keen sense among the populous that making the government too powerful is a bad thing. No such feeling is present among a majority of Americans/British/etc., and the possibility of governmental abuse of an ID card scheme is consequently real.

To paraphrase the old saw, 'The price of freedom is eternally fumbling for utility bills'.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615658)

Owing to Germany's history, there exists a keen sense among the populous that making the government too powerful is a bad thing. No such feeling is present among a majority of Americans/British/etc., and the possibility of governmental abuse of an ID card scheme is consequently real.
Have you ever actually read the constitution? It borders on paranoid as to the extent to which it goes to ensure that the government doesn't become too powerful. America's worst infractions have been a result of directly and blatantly violating the constitution.

We're not that different from France in that regard. There was quite a bit of ideological spillover between the drafting of the constitution and the French Revolution.

The UK is an interesting case, because, for the most part, the British government have been responsible stewards of the power which is (sort of) given to them by their citizens. Although the slippery slope argument still does apply, it hasn't really happened. Public sentiment about this is particularly strong due to the failure of several of Thatcher's privatization efforts -- the newly privatized Post Office recently determined that the most efficient/profitable way for it to operate would be to sell off virtually all of its assets, and call it a day.

My personal view on the ID cards is that they'd be perfectly acceptable (and probably a good idea) provided that they're implemented properly and that strong protective measures are put into place.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615640)

Say all you want otherwise, but the Germans are very different than Americans. For example, consider the case of German car companies using cadavers in crash tests. They say "What's the problem - were trying to improve safety", without understanding their reputation gained in WW II for experimenting on humans, Sure, it's really harmless, but they are oblivious about the public perception, implying they don't appreciate the main issue.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615724)

Achtung! Your caught!

I am sure some 40+ slashdotter will get the joke. Or younger possibly.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615416)

Government makes mistakes. People complain. News at 11.

Re:Do you trust the government with your idenity? (2, Insightful)

RKBA (622932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615820)

How about having your ID card canceled ON PURPOSE by a government that mistakenly puts you on the "terrorist" watch list, or because you didn't happen to bend over far enough for some beady eyed scumbag bureaucrat.

If they declare me dead (2, Funny)

vespacide2 (1235470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615292)

Do I have to pay back my credit card bills??
This might not be all bad.

Re:If they declare me dead (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615372)

Or taxes?

Re:If they declare me dead (1)

miguelfrommars (1222110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615758)

You wage slaves may be toast but the self-employed like me would continue to survive nicely on tax free income (at least until PayPal declares me dead). As long as I generate income the government will be entirely motivated to bring me back to life. I wouldn't need to lift a finger to prove I'm alive. Not that being able to lift a finger proves anything.

Re:If they declare me dead (2, Funny)

brusk (135896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615822)

Just try getting health coverage, though. It's really hard to find a good zombie doctor.

Netcraft has prior art? (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615294)

Isn't there prior art in this case?

Netcraft certainly have a business model that would appear to pre-date this government declaring things dead situation.

Re:Netcraft has prior art? (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615456)

In a way.

I hear the lead singer of Disaster Area spent a year dead for tax reasons; but you can't exactly chalk it up to human error.

Even getting a job is nixed to (3, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615296)

If you live in a state where they verify your SSN to make sure you aren't illegal, it wouldn't match up properly and you would lose the offer with zero recourse.

Not saying verification is wrong, but there needs to be some leeway for 'mistakes' like this.

Re:Even getting a job is nixed to (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615354)

It may be too late. They probably hired someone else instead, and didn't even tell you why you didn't get the job (because they think you died??). Seems to me that if they are doing verification on your SSN, it should show up why your number is invalid (like because you're dead). In that case, it would seem that they might just check up, since they recently interviewed you, to see if there was some mistake in the verification.

Re:Even getting a job is nixed to (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615600)

In that case, it would seem that they might just check up, since they recently interviewed you, to see if there was some mistake in the verification.

Yes, but only if they wanted to hire you. Let's look at a different scenario where they don't want to hire you and as a result never even check to see if your SSN is valid. Oh.. wait...

Re:Even getting a job is nixed to (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615676)

I think that the most relevant scenario is where you're one of a half dozen 'good' candidates where they're bothering to perform more extensive checks. You're still at the stage where any little thing can cost you the job(though it's still not guarenteed).

Still, showing up dead is less scary than the private investigation company I've heard about - they work a lot like the credit institutions, but for more general background information. Previous addresses, criminal records, even travel sometimes.

The really scary part is that per contractual terms, you're not to SEE your own information, thus having no opportunity to correct incorrect information. From what I've heard, they're also about as accurate as credit reports would be with no checking for accuracy. Even if you DO get the report, you'd be hard pressed to get them to correct it, and be looking at a complex (and expensive) legal case to sue them.

One guy managed to get his record in violation of the contractual terms - to find out that he was misidentified as a felon because he'd become cross-linked with a criminal with a similar(but not the same) last names, and a flight risk because he has a passport and flown to a different country(it was a business trip). He figured that this probably cost him at least one job, as he works in a security conscious field, and many companies use the service, perhaps without realizing it's inherent inaccuracy, or perhaps not caring. Easier to just throw out 10% of the good apples with the bad, after all, you only need one.

death certificate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615314)

Shouldn't there be a death certificate before you can be declared dead in the system?

And if so, shouldn't the absence of such a document be proof alone?

Re:death certificate (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615402)

Wouldn't they get a clue if you walked into their main office breathing and all?

Re:death certificate (2, Insightful)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615480)

Only if you could prove that you are you. So you know your SSN. Who cares? they don't know whether it is your SSN or you stole it from the guy you claim to be.

Re:death certificate (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615488)

Sure. First, of course, you'd have to get a visitor's pass with your SSN on it.

rj

Re:death certificate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615506)

Mebbe, but how are you going to get past security? Tell them that since the govt has declared you dead, they have no power to stop you?

Re:death certificate (5, Insightful)

the bluebrain (443451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615518)

Wouldn't they get a clue if you walked into their main office breathing and all?

Occam's razor has a bureaucratic counterpart: "All things being equal, the solution that means I don't have to do any extra work tends to be the best one."

You're still dead, friend.

Re:death certificate (1)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615744)

Yes I got the joke, but isn't the big problem that you need some way to prove that you really are the one you say you are?

Re:death certificate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615444)

And what happens when these same people make data input errors on the death certificates?

Let me guess, there should be a certificate of death certificate that they need to fill out in order to prove they filled out the death certificate correctly?

It's official... (5, Funny)

JonasH (183422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615316)

Being dead can quickly ruin your life!

Re:It's official... (2, Funny)

thewiz (24994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615334)

Not according to zombies!
Have brains? Unlife's good!

Re:It's official... (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615408)

Please provide proof of being alive before posting.

Ahh the data entry clerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615320)

almost every time I come across a 'bug' in our ERP system, it's because a clerk did something wrong.

Re:Ahh the data entry clerk (3, Informative)

Joe Decker (3806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615478)

almost every time I come across a 'bug' in our ERP system, it's because a clerk did something wrong.

*That's* a bug in your ERP process. I've run projects that required large-scale, high-quality data entry. E.g., 600,000 French verb conjugations. Of the following factors:

- the extent to which the UI helps the clerk enter the data quickly and easily

- the extent to which intelligence can be and has been applied to detect errors in entered data via checks against other data sources and/or sanity checks, or to detect possible errors in entered data

- whether or not data was entered redundantly by multiple clerks and cross-checked

- how "wrong" the clerk was, that is, the overall error rate of the individual clerk

the latter was by far the least significant in every case.

That people type the wrong things sometimes is, for the most part, unavoidable. It's how you cope with that reality that makes the most difference.

In the case of the SSA, I'm surprised the false death rate is only 35 a year, I actually think that's an error rate to be proud of (out of 300,000,000 people in the US)

Re:Ahh the data entry clerk (2, Informative)

Joe Decker (3806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615500)

I retract my comment about the 35/year, obviously I misremembered what I'd read, the true SSA number is much higher than my comment would indicate. Mea maxima culpa.

wouldn't it be great? (-1, Flamebait)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615324)

If Hillary Clinton was declared "dead" and she was automatically removed from all the ballots before Tuesday? Oh wait,... on second thought, being dead hasn't stopped candidates from running from office before,... sorry, my bad! :-)

Re:wouldn't it be great? (0, Offtopic)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615374)

Sir, I congratulate you. The way in which you seamlessly changed the topic to a totally unrelated one which you preferred to discuss was incredibly clever and subtle.

Oh no, hang on.... my mistake. It was neither! Are you the Republican equivalent of those people who use any excuse to make an offtopic attack on George Bush? Seems like it to me.

Re:wouldn't it be great? (1)

Spetiam (671180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615538)

At this point, he's more likely an Obama supporter.

Re:wouldn't it be great? (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615626)

At this point, he's more likely an Obama supporter

The thing is, Obama - through sheer audacity of hope and lefty rhetoric - actually can bring the dead back to life. Also, college girls actually faint when he talks. Now that's qualifications for being Commander in Chief, no matter how extensive is your opponent's collection of Pentagon-briefing-ready pantsuits.

Re:wouldn't it be great? (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615376)

Stuff like this never really makes an impact until somebody important gets hit. I remember one reporter sent a copy of the Minister of Privacy's phone records to her, just to show her how easily you could get ahold of somebody's supposedly private phone records, for just a small fee.

Obligatory Monty Python (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615330)

"I'm not dead!" [youtube.com]

Another one? Give me a break! (0, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615340)

When you think that you have seen the last depiction of the United States' government incompetence, there comes another one. It leaves me wondering what is next.

How are we in these United States different when compared to the so called "third world" countries - specifically relating to issues like these? I am inclined to think that they are better.

Re:Another one? Give me a break! (2, Interesting)

Chickan (1070300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615470)

What about the article a few months back talking about how the man in India (I believe) who was declared dead 30 years ago by his family in order to reap financial benefits. I tried searching for the thread, but couldn't find it. I'm sure many people in that thread made claims about this never happening in a "modern" country like the US.

Re:Another one? Give me a break! (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615482)

How are we in these United States different from so-called 'enlightened' Europe, where the same human error must happen, but combined with the institutionalized laziness and slop, the costs are even higher?

Re:Another one? Give me a break! (0, Flamebait)

Miseph (979059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615584)

Easy, because they have a culture which prevents massive reductions to what the majority earns for the benefit of a tiny fraction of the ultra-wealthy, their economy isn't going down the shitter do to nobody being able to make any money except that same tiny fraction who don't need it because they already have so much they can't even spend it.

Step 1: fire half of the worker drones and slash the pay for the rest to increase your bottom line.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: PROFIT... Hey, why isn't anyone buying our overpriced junk anymore, have they run out of money or something?

Re:Another one? Give me a break! (1, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615612)


How are we in these United States different when compared to the so called "third world" countries - specifically relating to issues like these?

My guess is in many of the "third world" countries you'll be expected to bribe officials to correct an error like this. Of course, you could also probably bribe someone to list your enemy as dead as well.

Is that better? I guess it is if you're someone with a lot of money to throw around at bribes it is.

I kind of doubt there's retirement benefits in most third world countries.. because most people don't live until retirement age. I doubt most people can afford to get a loan. I'm unfamiliar with healthcare in third world countries.. but I kind of doubt most people can afford it, even if/when it's available. So yah, I guess being declared dead in a third world country has less impact because there's just nothing really to lose.

You're saying that's better?

The average daily mortality (2, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615656)

When you think that you have seen the last depiction of the United States' government incompetence, there comes another one

The Average Daily Mortality in the U.S. for Victims of All Ages, 2002 [applet-magic.com] was 6706.

That implies an error rate of about 1/2 of 1%.

The mortality among adults under age 45 is much lower, of course, but still run about 3500 each week. In 1/5 of those cases, the cause of death may be most simply defined as "Other."

Logic suggests... (5, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615346)

Apparently it is far easier to declare a person's death than it is to correct the mistake.
"As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create." - Spock

You green-blooded, inhuman... (4, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615736)

Only on Slashdot would a Wrath of Khan quote get modded "Informative". {raises eyebrow}

Err, shouldn't the proof be right there? (2, Insightful)

mother_reincarnated (1099781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615392)

due to an average of 35 data input errors per day by the Social Security Administration (SSA) ... deletion must be approved by a supervisor after "pertinent facts supporting reinstatement" are available in the system.'"

Wouldn't the "pertinent facts" be easily established by looking at the incoming documentation saying "Jane Smith, Age 83, SSN XXX-XX-1234 died on 1/1/08" and noticing that "Billy McAnyone, Age 30, XXX-XX-1243" is the one you killed? I mean we're talking about clerical errors within the SSA so their own documentation won't match- how hard is this to (god forbid) detect on their own, none the less validate after the living-dead point out the problem?

Re:Err, shouldn't the proof be right there? (3, Interesting)

ptbob (737777) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615558)

The "Proof" to correct an error like this always takes more information than was used to screw it up in the first place. I work for the federal government and use a Voyager credit card to purchase gasoline and vehicle services. I bought 3 quarts of ATF and the clerk at the station rang it up as a food sale, but for the correct amount. Both myself and my supervisor had to fill out and sign paperwork stating that the statement was in error and that ATF was purchased, not food. A wasted 15 minutes for both of us because a clerk hit the wrong key. Way to go.

Re:Err, shouldn't the proof be right there? (2, Interesting)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615614)

Are you seriously having to buy automatic transmission fluid in 3-quart quantities at service stations to keep a vehicle functioning that is funded by the government? I hope it's not a fleet vehicle.

Re:Err, shouldn't the proof be right there? (4, Interesting)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615808)

Wouldn't the "pertinent facts" be easily established by looking at the incoming documentation saying "Jane Smith, Age 83, SSN XXX-XX-1234 died on 1/1/08" and noticing that "Billy McAnyone, Age 30, XXX-XX-1243" is the one you killed?

That would actually require that someone analyze the results and make a judgment call. The SSA doesn't hire data entry operators that can make those decisions.

The solution is the same as what was used years ago in the punch card era: every input is performed twice. After the first data entry operator entered the data on a set of punch cards, the deck of cards went to a second operator who would duplicate the data entry in "verify" mode. Any discrepancies would sound a buzzer, and the second operator would have to stop and re-enter the data or create a new card with the correction.

Today, it wouldn't be difficult to simply assign the data to two different data entry operators and then compare the results -- flagging any differences for review.

However, that won't solve the problem of incorrect incoming data. Requiring input (and verification) of additional details like name, age, etc. would allow those to be validated against existing records, spitting out exceptions for review.

simple solution.. just contact nobel prize winner (5, Interesting)

ptr2004 (695756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615446)

Lal Bihari
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lal_Bihari [wikipedia.org]
He founded the Association of the Dead .. for chrissake !!

You can't fix death... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615448)

My grandfather died two months after his death was recorded as having occurred. No biggy right? Wrong.

My grandmother was denied all health insurance and government assistance for his claims during those two months. She had a lawyer fix the date four times and confirmed the fix for his death certificate, and the government computers kept resetting the date of death to the older incorrect date.

When they claim there is a procedure for fixing the wrongful death date, don't believe it. You can't fix death, even when the guy didn't die.

Re:You can't fix death... (3, Interesting)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615570)

When they claim there is a procedure for fixing the wrongful death date, don't believe it.

Well, I think they do have a procedure for it. It's just that having a procedure for something doesn't imply that the procedure works.

What should have been. (2, Interesting)

MR.Mic (937158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615492)

If they really wanted to cut back the errors, they should have had many more digits in the SSN. If they doubled the number of digits and assigned them in a non-sequential order, most erroneous entries would come back as not being assigned to anyone.

Re:What should have been. (3, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615628)

Close, but not quite. Adding more digits just means more places to make a mistake.

The solution is not more digits, but to make social security numbers, nay ALL identifying numbers, self checksumming.

For example when you're shopping online the credit processing system knows immediately when you enter an invalid number because credit card numbers have a check digit (http://www.beachnet.com/~hstiles/cardtype.html). In this instance it seems that miskeying SSNs is a significant part of the problem, having a checksummed number greatly reduces this.

Another aspect is that everyone uses SSNs as identifying numbers. This is bad because, for example, the IRS can only be responsible for data entry faults in its own organization and not those made at the Social Security Administration. Its like Comcast using my Verizon customer number*. You can prevent this to some extent by registering for a taxpayer number to use with the IRS instead of your SSN. Refusing to give your SSN to agencies that request it (when practical) could also help.

*An apt analogy I think, comparing the dinosaurs of inept big government to the dinosaurs of big telecommunications.

Re:What should have been. (3, Interesting)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615714)

In Canada, we use a Social Insurance Number rather than an SSN. It's 9 digits, and the 9th digit is in fact a checksum digit. I'm kind of surprised that the US didn't go with more digits back in the early days of computerization - the early 70s in the case of this stuff. Then they would have had a checksum digit also. I have coded payroll systems in tha past, and you would be surprised at how often the Canadian SIN is mistyped and caught by checksum. I've seen the error counts.

I wonder if it wouldn't be much less trouble ... (5, Funny)

golodh (893453) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615510)

to make reality conform to the records. Purely as an administrative procedure you see. Off the record of course, but much quicker than setting about altering the records.

After all ... we can't have inaccurate records now, can we? That would be the road to chaos! And think of the savings. We wouldn't have to go on record recording changes to the records, and who benefit from such a record?

Why not set up an adminstrative comittee suitably empowered to, and responsible for, maintaining the integrity of the records? How about that? It would solve this little problem in record time!

Already can... (1)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615636)

The deceased may simply request this by filling out the appropriate section on his 27B(stroke)6 form.

It's a deal (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615512)

The IRS identifies you by your SSN, too.

rj

what if.... (3, Funny)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615516)

what happens if a person makes a mistake filling out the paperwork declaring that they are, in fact, alive?
will the clerk sitting behind the desk hand the papers back to you, stating that you have not given sufficient proof that you are alive.

at that point, i would likely flip out and start eating brains.
Not her brain, mind you, because if she fails to realize that standing in front of her kinda proves that I am alive; thats not a brain worth eating.

Hotblack Desiato (2, Insightful)

Dannkape (1195229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615524)

How many of those "thousands" went on "spending a year dead for tax reasons" before bothering to clear things up?

Funny because in Chicago.... (1)

anticlone (1245294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615544)

They tend to raise from the dead in an election year!

This is great news! (4, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615548)

This is the most effective way to live "off the grid!" No more taxes, etc.

Think of the legal implications.

Its against the law to "mistreat" a dead body. So, no death penalty for someone declared dead. Also, since you're dead, they can't stick you in a jail cell (the state won't to pay to jail a dead person, and other detainees would have a good complaint, cruel and unusual punishment and all that). Heck, they can't even put the cuffs on you without running afoul of the requirement to treat a dead body with all due respect and dignity .... someone should take this and really run with it.

Of course, there's the downside. No more sex, since necrophilia is also against the law ...

Re:This is great news! (5, Funny)

freaknl (1194831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615586)

Of course, there's the downside. No more sex, since necrophilia is also against the law ...

I don't think it is illegal for the dead person to have sex in any jurisdiction, just find yourself another dead person to do it with and you are both in the clear.

Hang on, I've got to go register a domain (5, Funny)

BovineSpirit (247170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615710)

AdultZombieFinder.com: Bringing America's dead together.

Re:This is great news! (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615674)

Downside: You can't murder a dead body. Therefore, you'd be fine to kill for fun. "Running Man" TV shows, perhaps?

Re:This is great news! (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615802)

On the other hand, the government can do whatever it wants to you, given that you're legally dead.

Until Americans reinstate habeas corpus [wikipedia.org] , all bets are off.

"pertinent facts supporting reinstatement" (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615568)

The original error must be documented, and the deletion must be approved by a supervisor after "pertinent facts supporting reinstatement" are available in the system.
I guess the supposedely deceased being present when the request for reinstatement is handed in won't count as a "pertinent fact" until he has been stabbed with a wooden stake and shot with a silver bullet?

Re:"pertinent facts supporting reinstatement" (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615632)

At that point reality probably matches government records without any further work needed.

Biometrics database as solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615578)

I know many people have concerns about the government creating expansive biometrics databases, but they would be useful for establishing identity in a case like this.

At least (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615590)

Then I could collect social security!

Well this is great (1)

cyofee (975070) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615596)

I'll just take a very large credit from a bank, and I'll "die" and move to Africa or Eastern Europe.

The Indians have far more effective bureacracy... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615604)

This chap fought officialdom for 18 years to prove he wasn't dead:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lal_Bihari [wikipedia.org]

Bureaucracy (4, Interesting)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615620)

I remember an episode that happened about 10 years ago.

I live in a two family house. I moved from the first floor to the second floor. In the phone junction box, I just swapped the wires. I figured no problem. I called the phone company to tell them what I did (In the form of "I was about to do") and they said, no you can't do that. They have to send a technician to the pole in front of the house to change the wires and change their computer records, of course, there was a service fee involved.

I was pissed off, then it occurred to me, I called the phone company again to say that they had made a mistake and the phone lines had been wrongly addressed and would they please update the computer records for 911 service. The answer was O.K. Mr ....

Moral of the story, a "mistake" is easily corrected when it isn't merely "you," but another bureaucracy that has an importance. In the case of the phone records, it was 911 service. Screw that up, and there is civil liability involved. In the case of the SSI, I bet they'd adjust those records quickly if you said you were having problems paying your income tax and should you just refer the IRS to them?

Proof? (4, Funny)

guttentag (313541) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615634)

Social Security says an erroneous death record can be removed only when it is presented with proof that the original record was entered in error.
"Uh, hello? I'm here. I'm alive. What more proof do you need?"
"You have to prove that the record was entered in error, sir."
"You mean I have to find the data entry clerk and get a notarized statement that he didn't mean to mark me as dead? What if he meant to do it, because he's become mad with power?"
"Then you're dead, sir."
"If I'm dead, why are you still calling me 'sir?'"
"It's in the handbook: 'All male customers must be addressed as sir, regardless of age, national origin, ethnicity, or disability.' I think being dead would qualify as a disability. Anyway, it's not worth losing my job over. Next in line!"

Root Cause? (1)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615642)

Perhaps the checks and balances should be in place to file an individual as dead. How is it possible to do this via a data entry error?

Life Insurance (4, Interesting)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615650)

Does that mean that you can cash in the phat insurance check??

Actually... (1)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615668)

This would be perfect for those hermit types that live "Off the Grid."

In Soviet Russia.... (4, Funny)

RedOregon (161027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615672)

...when government declares you dead... you are!

This is a good thing (3, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615680)

I think that it is a good thing that it is easier to declare someone dead than undead. Firstly, people die more often than they come back to life so it is a much more common thing to need to do.

Secondly, in this day and age of identity theft, you don't want to make it too convenient for someone to turn up claiming to be a person that everyone thought was dead. We aren't living in a soap opera, you know!

But, I don't want to get on the cart. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Admin (304403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615682)

I'm not dead yet. ... I'm feeling better. ...

Are you sure it's a mistake? (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615694)

Perhaps the government knows something those citizens don't.

Bigger Problem Than You Think (5, Informative)

rrz103 (725918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615698)

This is a bigger problem than the post alludes to. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put in to effect a new rule, called the "No-Match Rule" which requires an employer to terminate an employee when receiving a letter from the DHS or the Social Security Administration (SSA), that the new employee in question doesn't exist in the SSA database. There is a period of 90 days in which to contest the no-match rule but if you're not on top of things, your employer has to fire you.

Right now there is a stay on that rule ordered by a district court in California, but it goes to show you some small error can have big consequences. See AFL-CIO v. Chertoff, No. 07-4472 (N.D. Cal filed Aug. 29, 2007. Apparently the DHS is looking into revising the rule.

More here [aclu.org]

Im Not Dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615772)

CUSTOMER:
        Here's one.
CART MASTER:
        Ninepence.
DEAD PERSON:
        I'm not dead!
CART MASTER:
        What?
CUSTOMER:
        Nothing. Here's your ninepence.
DEAD PERSON:
        I'm not dead!
CART MASTER:
        'Ere. He says he's not dead!
CUSTOMER:
        Yes, he is.
DEAD PERSON:
        I'm not!
CART MASTER:
        He isn't?
CUSTOMER:
        Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
DEAD PERSON:
        I'm getting better!
CUSTOMER:
        No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
CART MASTER:
        Oh, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
DEAD PERSON:
        I don't want to go on the cart!
CUSTOMER:
        Oh, don't be such a baby.
CART MASTER:
        I can't take him.
DEAD PERSON:
        I feel fine!
CUSTOMER:
        Well, do us a favour.
CART MASTER:
        I can't.
CUSTOMER:
        Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
CART MASTER:
        No, I've got to go to the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today.
CUSTOMER:
        Well, when's your next round?
CART MASTER:
        Thursday.
DEAD PERSON:
        I think I'll go for a walk.
CUSTOMER:
        You're not fooling anyone, you know. Look. Isn't there something you can do?
DEAD PERSON: [singing]
        I feel happy. I feel happy.
        [whop]
CUSTOMER:
        Ah, thanks very much.
CART MASTER:
        Not at all. See you on Thursday.
CUSTOMER:
        Right. All right.
        [howl]
        [clop clop clop]
        Who's that, then?
CART MASTER:
        I dunno. Must be a king.
CUSTOMER:
        Why?
CART MASTER:
        He hasn't got shit all over him.

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22615778)

This is cool if you have a good life insurance. If your bank account etc. is suddenly closed, your life insurance company is notified, as well, probably by the bank, since they can't withdraw their monthly fee.

The best is this is all happening with notifications from the government, so no one is questioning it.

You can quit your job, etc. and acquire illegally all the papers your need for citizenship, etc.
Since the government "killed" you, you probably have the right to obtain "life" in any way you can.

It's not a mistake (1)

martincmartin (1094173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22615798)

They're spending a year dead for tax purposes.
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