5 On Your Side

Raleigh senior forced to prove 'I am still alive and well' after feds, credit card think she's dead

Posted June 18, 2019 6:15 p.m. EDT

A Raleigh senior is struggling to prove she's alive and well after the Social Security Administration mistakenly declared her dead.

"May 3, 2019, is when I supposedly died," said Cornette Nettles.

She found out when Social Security withdrew her deposit in May.

"Initially, we thought it was funny, 'cause we referred to me as the walking dead," Nettles told 5 On Your Side. "But not it's not funny," she said. "Now it's frustrating"

Medicare dropped the 81-year-old, so her doctor hasn't been paid. Then, she received a letter about the closing of her credit card account. It was addressed to her estate.

Nettles says that's when it hit her. "I got sick to my stomach. I got nauseated," she said.

"That was the first documentation of it (her death) – nothing from Social Security, nothing from Medicare," she said. "That was real."

Nettles and her husband are working to sort it out.

"We are extremely concerned because we don't know how far this goes," Nettles said. "And we don't know how the credit card company heard anything about anyone's demise."

Social Security shares death records with nine benefit-paying Federal agencies, including the IRS. To start the clean-up process, Nettles went to the Social Security office in Durham, where she had to write a statement certifying she's still alive.

She also called 5 On Your Side.

Days after WRAL contacted Social Security on her behalf, Nettles' May deposit was reinstated.

"I understand bureaucracy," Nettles said. "It's broken."

A spokeswoman with Social Security told WRAL their "records are highly accurate." Patti Patterson says of the approximately 2.8 million deaths reported each year, roughly 7,400 are mistakes, triggered when Social Security numbers are entered inaccurately.

But for those 7,000 plus people, being declared dead sends their very alive world into a tailspin!

"Everyone I've talked with about it has said that it takes a good while to get it corrected," Nettles said.

Part of that effort involves a letter from the Social Security Administration to share with banks, doctors and others. It's called the "Erroneous Death Case – Third Party Contact," sharing that a death report was a mistake.

Until she receives the letter, Nettles laughingly shared this obvious-but-critical message: "I am still alive and well."