Woman fights with government 23 years to prove she's alive

5:54 PM, Jul 29, 2013   |    comments
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AKRON -- An Akron woman has been trying for 23 years to prove her existence to the government.  

But the federal government, through Social Security, keeps telling her she's dead.

Linda Grimm is a retiree who lives in East Akron, where she volunteers as a neighborhood watch captain.

That is impressive, when you consider that she's been dead since 1990, according to Social Security records.

It was that year that she went to open a new account at her local bank, and when the teller called up her file, there was a note attached from Social Security that said she was "deceased."

The bank was told by a federal bureaucrat that Grimm's number belonged to a stranger who had died that same year.

To straighten out the mess, Social Security's Akron office had Grimm spend several hours going through a file that linked her work history with the dead man's.

They wouldn't tell her his name, though, or where he had lived.

Grimm spent three hours filling out forms that should have set the records straight, but didn't.

She did not know that, though, until six years ago, when she applied for widow's benefits from Social Security.

Again, they told her she was dead -- 17 years after she thought the confusion was cleared up.

"I was frustrated, yes," she says. "Upset, yes. Mad, extremely mad."

She filed even more paperwork to attempt to fix this ongoing error.

This month, however, she was told for the third time that she was dead. At this point, she has actually outlived some of the Social Security employees who first worked on her case.  

Grimm isn't the first person who has been erroneously declared dead.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has worked with a number of constituents who have faced the same mix-up.

A spokesman for Social Security -- from the regional office in Chicago -- admits they dropped the ball and blames the mess on human error.

Dan Nguyen says someone incorrectly keyed in the dead man's Social Security number, making it the same as Grimm's.

Linda Grimm will turn 65 in a couple of months. For her birthday, she wants proof that she's alive -- and perhaps an apology for 23 years of aggravation.

Nguyen says Social Security won't put it in writing, but he passed along apologies on behalf of the government.


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