Nearly 30 years ago, the Social Security Administration decided that a 4-year-old Minnesota boy was dead. He was not. SSA employees chalked it up to a “glitch” and promised to correct the error. They did not. And even as that boy grew up and began paying taxes, the federal government still considered him deceased, at least until his local TV station and a U.S. Senator got involved.
The SSA zombified the preschooler back in 1987. That’s when, according to KMSP-TV, his recently remarried mom received a letter from the government saying she could no longer receive child support, not because she had a new spouse but because her living, breathing son was dead as far as the government was concerned.
At the time, the SSA assured her that it had fixed the situation, but wouldn’t send her a copy of the documentation.
That undead boy went on to stay alive, go to school, be gainfully employed, have three children, and get engaged. He also paid taxes, and everything was fine until 2009, when he only received half of the tax refund that he was supposed to. The IRS’s reason? He was dead.
Yes, dead people are supposed to file tax returns for income they earned and taxes they paid in the last year that they were alive, but what’s with the half refund? He was unable to figure it out, and the IRS remained convinced that he was dead for the next eight years.
He spent that time trying to straighten out the situation with the IRS and Social Security Administration, and got nowhere.
“I’d call and they were like, ‘let’s just give him the hold monster,’” he told KMSP.
Worse, the IRS kept his whole tax refunds after 2009, and he estimates that it owes him $20,000 by now. He reached a breaking point this year when an H&R Block office told him that they couldn’t prepare his tax return because he was dead.
Finally, his U.S. Senator, Amy “The one from Minnesota who isn’t Al Franken” Klobuchar, intervened after his story was on television news. There’s something about a senator intervening that makes the wheels of bureaucracy actually move, and three weeks after the original news story, the Social Security Administration told him that he was officially alive again.
“I think that’s probably better than winning the lottery,” he told the TV station. “To be living and be normal is much better than being on this list of dead people.”
Sen. Klobuchar’s office was able to get the Social Security Administration to reverse its declaration and bring him back to live.
“This constituent was declared dead by the government when he wasn’t,” she said in a statement to KMSP about the situation. “It doesn’t get much worse than that.”
It could be worse. In a dystopian science fiction novel, the government would send have sent a robot to kill him so reality would conform with their records, but this is real life. Fortunately.
His next step: Getting that back tax refund.