Being falsely declared dead once could provide enough existential uncertainty and financial hardship to last a lifetime. But how about four times?
10-year Army veteran Jerry Miller of Brevard County, Florida has been declared deceased by the U.S. Veterans Administration four times in the span of less than two years, Orlando NBC affiliate WESH reports.
Every time the VA declares him dead, Miller's military pension benefits are cut off, which, in addition to his social security, account for the bulk of the retiree's income. The interruptions may put Miller's ability to keep his home in jeopardy, according to the International Business Times, so after receiving a payment request for $94,000 from the VA this month, Miller said he's had enough.
"To me, it's stupid," he told WESH. "I can't die but one time. They have killed me four times."
As it turns out, being mistaken for dead is fairly common and often has dire consequences for the victims' financial standing. In fact, about 1 in every 200 deaths reported is false, totaling about 14,000 per year, CNNMoney reports.
The errors can have serious financial repercussions; in some cases, victims have had their pensions, disability or unemployment benefits stopped. In others, a false death can destroy credit ratings. The errors can take months of paperwork to fix, but are usually caused by simple clerical mistakes during the process when Social Security numbers are transcribed to death certificates, according to CNNMoney.
But it's not only the Social Security Administration that's been known to make a mistake. Wrenella Pierre, also of Florida, was declared deceased by her bank, JPMorgan Chase, in November 2010, The Orlando Sentinel reports. She's now suing the bank on claims that the mistake ruined her credit rating and kept her from refinancing her mortgage.
In some cases though, a fake death can be used to gain benefits, rather than lose them. A Manhattan school worker lied to her employer last month, saying that her daughter had a fatal heart attack in order to get more vacation time. Likewise, in order to miss three days of work, a New York teacher claimed her mother had died. She was actually spending that time bowling with her Mom, the NY Post reports.