Woman wrongfully declared dead trying to prove her existence for 15 years: ‘I don’t have a place to stay’


Presumption of death is a practice that is solemnly overlooked in society since it is not brought under scrutiny more often. Additionally, the laws tied to it are also filled with loopholes and garnered by ineffective authority. In such loosely-reigned cases, the few who are actually presumed to be dead are constantly fighting to be recognized.

In a similar incident, People reported a woman from Missouri is still fighting to prove that she is alive even after 15 years from the date she was wrongfully declared dead by the authorities. Madeline-Michelle: Carthen reported via People that the issue first began in November 2006, but she did not gain complete awareness of it until the school let her know four months later, and this error changed her life forever.

Carthen opens up to People in an exclusive interview where she states that she wanted to take part in Webster University’s international intern exchange program in the summer of 2007 but was unable to get through. She wasn’t even allowed to graduate as she reported that her Social Security number had lapsed and listed her dead.

Carthen records that CNN got involved in her story back in 2007, and with their help, she learned from the Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C., that her records were in a “deceased warehouse.” Her name was mistakenly added to the Death Master file, an internal software that processes all the names of deceased people and their social security numbers.

Per NBC affiliate KSDK-TV, reported via People, once someone is added to the DMF, the IRS, banks, and Medicare cancel their existence. Additionally, their research also pointed to the fact that the government wrongfully marks at least 12,000 Americans as dead every year, notwithstanding the consequences such silly mistakes bring with them.

SSA spokesperson Darren Lutz told People in their statement that they had contacted the respected authorities to help Carthen’s case and were not at liberty to discuss any other private individual cases living under similar circumstances. People reported via the statement of the SSA spokesperson, “The spokesperson added that nearly 3 million deaths are reported to the SSA each year and that their records are “highly accurate.” He noted that of the “millions of death reports we receive each year, less than one-third of 1 percent are subsequently corrected.””

According to the spokesperson of SSA, if and when a person is wrongfully stamped as deceased, they are supposed to bring another form of individual identification to the SSA office, and once certified, the agency will offer a death erroneous letter to show banks, doctors and others that it was a mistake.

Replying to this simple, effective solution that SSA supposedly provides, Carthen reports that she adhered to all the standard norms a person with a fake death stamp accrues to, alas, has received six more erogenous death letters in six years.

People reported her tireless striving over the years to establish her identity and reverse the death claim by contacting four Presidents, only one of whom (Donald Trump) responded. She filed a lawsuit in 2019, but it was dismissed after the government said it had sovereign immunity.52-year-old Carthen even changed her name in 2021 to have a more established and stable job, which she could not receive due to this complicated situation. She even received a new Social Security Number but again faced setbacks.

She continues in her statement to People, “I’m in Missouri, but I’m back and forth [between here and Tennessee],” adding, “I had to give up my home. I don’t have a place to stay. I can’t get a mortgage.” People also reported, “In addition to the fact that her court-ordered new name is misspelled in some government databases, the wrong Social Security number is even listed on her E-Verify, which is what employers use to confirm employees eligibility to work.” Carthen reiterated, saying, “I can get a job but I can’t keep a job.”

The impacts due to this grave error also impacted her son Kenneth, who is 29 years old. He had difficulty going back to school since she can’t sign his Federal Student Aid application because she doesn’t have a valid Social Security number.

Through the innumerable issues that have plagued Carthen and her family’s lives, she found a silver lining in the form of health insurance and how she can afford disabilities health insurance. She said to People in her statement, “I’m dealing with aortic valve regurgitation and atrial fibrillation. I’m in stage three kidney renal failure,” adding, “How is it that I can go through these things and they classify me as dead and I’m not, but I’m on disability?”

“Everything has been stripped from me,” she said. “I’m blocked.”

We hope the government and SSA take better notice of Carthen and other people who are going through the same thing and revoke the years of damage caused.