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ProPublica

ProPublica

Posted May 13, 2009 | 11:20 AM (EST)

Stimulus for the Dead


by David Epstein, ProPublica

 It’s only fair to expect the odd clerical error amid the frantic rush to infuse the economy with cash. But assuming that only living Americans will have their wallets fattened seems like a reasonable expectation.

WBAL-TV in Baltimore reports this morning that Rose Hagner, a Maryland woman who died on Memorial Day in 1967, received one of the one-time $250 stimulus checks intended for Social Security and SSI recipients.  (As we noted last week, working seniors who make over $75,000 will receive the check only to have the $250 deducted from their tax credit next spring.)

Representatives from the Social Security Administration told the station that, of 52 million checks that are out the door, around 10,000 have been sent to people who have passed away.  The representatives blame the hasty June check-mailing deadline for not allowing them to peruse their records with fine-toothed combs. If 43 years wasn’t long enough to get Rose off the rolls, certainly the three months since the passage of the stimulus bill wouldn’t be.

Rose Hagner’s check was plucked from the mailbox by her surprised son, who may have had his apparently scant faith in the Social Security mailing list eroded. James Hagner, 83, told WBALTV: "It shocked me and I laughed all at the same time. … I don't even expect to get one for myself, and I get one for my mother from 43 years ago?"

Since cashing someone else’s Social Security check is a federal offense, James Hagner is hoping just to frame his mother’s stimulus money and hang it on his wall.

ProPublica is America's largest investigative newsroom.