‘”Oh, by golly, you are dead”‘

Surprising, but I’ve posted a few pieces about the living dead, i.e., people who have for whatever reasons been dropped from official reports of their legal and palpable living-ness. “Whatever reasons”? Maybe I shouldn’t have used that phrase since “reason” does not apply.

As distressing as this situation might be for real live human beings, it reads as black comedy to some of us. Yes, maybe we’re reprehensible characters for laughing over someone’s similar conundrum but, then, we’re all alive and still on the books for being so.

So, sorry if you’re offended, but today, from Lowering the Bar, is this little story:

“Oh, by golly, you are dead”: Better to hear this from a Social Security worker than your doctor, I guess:

Puzzled, the 73-year-old Lincoln [Nebraska] man called his bank thinking maybe there’d been a computer glitch. U.S. Bank told him to call Mellon Bank, who told him to call his pension administrator, who told him he was dead.

“And I said, ‘Oh?’ and I got a little concerned,” the retiree said….

Eventually, they found the Social Security office, took a number and waited three hours until a friendly woman called his name. “I gave her my passport and my driver’s license and she goes clickety-clickety-click and she says, ‘Oh, by golly, you are dead,’ and she laughed about it.”

The dead man laughed, too, but he still didn’t have his money.

Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration itself said an audit found about 12,000 mistakes per year out of 2.5 million death reports. The SSA, of course, focused on what it described as the “very low” error rate (about one-half of one percent), not the absolute number, and I’m still trying to decide whether that’s fair or not. You could say, as the agency did, that “there are fewer than 1,000 cases each month in which the agency mistakenly declares a living person is deceased,” or you could say that a living person is mistakenly declared dead in the U.S. about once every 45 minutes. I will leave that to you for now. (Source:  Lincoln Journal-Star; see also, e.g.  “‘No, You’re Still Deceased,’ Judge Tells Dead Man,” Lowering the Bar (Oct. 10, 2013).)

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