Upstate man mistakenly declared dead by Social Security Administration

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 11:14 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - An Upstate couple had to deal with headache after headache after the Social Security Administration mistakenly declared the wrong family member dead.

“This is the letter that I received, that we received, and it said to the estate of Charles Whitner,” says Marie Whitner, with her Husband Charles sitting next to her. “I read the letter. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, they’re thinking that you passed’.”

Charles Whiter is not dead. We spent some time with him, his wife, and his grandson to see for ourselves.

But Charles was declared dead by the Social Security Administration in March.

“You have no Medicare insurance. You no longer have a social security check. And that was like ‘oh my goodness, let’s call’,” explained Marie.

Just weeks after laying their son Charles “Dylon” Whitner to rest, the Whitners faced an unnecessary struggle of not getting their social security checks and a hold on their bank account and Medicare insurance.

“How long are we supposed to wait before we can actually see some money? And I just kept saying thank goodness we don’t live paycheck to paycheck,” said Marie.

Charles and his son shared first and last names but have different birthdays and social security numbers. The father doesn’t even have a middle name.

The Whitners quickly realized what happened, and everyone makes mistakes, but it took weeks to resolve the problem.

“I did not get any reassurance. They just said we’re so sorry this happened, but if it happened to us, it could happen to other people,” said Marie.

The latest data from the Social Security Advisory Board revealed the agency declares around 8,000 living people dead out of nearly 3 million deaths reported each year.

The region of the Social Security Administration that oversees South Carolina declined an interview saying due to privacy laws they cannot discuss individual cases, but did give us a statement that says,

“Approximately 2.9 million deaths are reported to the Social Security Administration each year and our records are highly accurate. Of these millions of death reports we receive each year, less than one-third of 1 percent are subsequently corrected. Deaths are reported to Social Security primarily from the States but also from family members, funeral homes, and financial institutions. If a person suspects that they have been incorrectly listed as deceased on their Social Security record, they should contact their local Social Security office as soon as possible. They can locate their nearest Social Security office at They should be prepared to bring at least one piece of current (not expired) original form of identification. Part of the process of correcting records includes ensuring all current and past-due benefits are paid. Social Security takes immediate action to correct our records, and we can provide a letter that the error has been corrected that can be shared with other organizations.”

But Charles didn’t feel like another statistic when he learned he was declared dead.

“Turned around, went in there and sat down. Shed some tears over my son,” he said.

The mistake is now fixed, and the Whitners are once again getting their social security checks and Medicare insurance.

But for their troubles? The SSA offered them one free year of credit monitoring.

“We don’t need that, we don’t want that, and I think that was sort of an insult,” said Marie.

The couple still isn’t sure where the mistake was made but wants to share their story. This way, maybe others won’t have to go through the same experience.

“We were just so stressed, we weren’t sleeping well the anxiety level was terrible. Our patience had gotten short. It was just not a good experience and then to think back that we just lost our son and it was just, oh, it was a terrible experience,” said Marie.