CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A Chesapeake woman was declared dead by the Social Security Administration — but she’s very much still alive.
At the end of November, Linda Plevyak received a letter addressed to her family from her insurance company. The letter offered condolences for Linda’s death and stated her insurance had been stopped.
Confused, Plevyak began making phone calls and discovered the root of the problem: The Social Security Administration had mistakenly listed her as “deceased.”
“It is kind of scary sometimes when you find out that you passed away and didn’t know it,” Plevyak said.
Plevyak ‘s husband of 50 years died suddenly in November. It’s unclear if his death caused this confusion. What did become clear is coming back from the dead in a government system isn’t easy.
“I went to the Norfolk Social Security Office and waited five hours for them to take a copy of my driver’s license, and I took a copy of my husband’s death certificate so they wouldn’t get confused,” she said.
That was weeks ago. Plevyak did everything they asked, but change was extremely slow. And the ripple effects kept coming.
With her health insurance stopped, she had to cancel a surgery. She also and had to figure out how to get her prescriptions. She worries about what would happen if she got into an accident or had to go to the hospital for some reason.
Plevyak reached out to everyone she could think of, including her elected officials, and still no progress.
“It’s the frustration of being helpless,” Plevyak said. “I have no clout to be able to get this done. If it was someone important in politics or something I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken that long.”
Out of options, she called 10 On Your Side. And we called social security.
“That one phone call from Channel 10 got the ball rolling. The Norfolk office called me and apologized profusely and said, ‘We’re going to get this straight,'” she said.
“It’s a shame it had to go to that, for them to get a phone call from a reporter probably for fear that it was going to be reported,” she added.
Plevyak is officially listed as “alive” again, although it will take some time to get her insurance back and everything else back on track.
10 On Your Side reached out to officials with Social Security to see how often something like this happens. They said out the 2.8 million deaths reported every year, less than a third of 1 percent have to be corrected.
Social Security officials also gave this advice for how to handle being incorrectly listed as dead:
“If a person suspects that they have been incorrectly listed as deceased on their Social Security record, they should visit their local Social Security office as soon as possible. They can locate their nearest Social Security office at https://www.ssa.gov/agency/contact/. They should take at least one piece of current (not expired) original form of identification with them. Part of the process of correcting records includes ensuring any current and past due benefits are paid. Social Security can provide a letter that the error has been corrected that can be shared with other organizations.”
And Plevyak has some advice of her own.
“If this happens to you — hopefully not — give them a week and then if nothing happens contact Channel 10,” she said.