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Summerville man declared dead despite being alive

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 10:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:44 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A Summerville Navy veteran is trying to come back from the dead.

“I don’t know who started it. I don’t know how it started. All I know is I can’t get out of it,” Stephen Dutton said. “I am a 79-year-old living-dead man. If that makes any sense.”

Dutton’s wife received a letter on Friday from the Social Security Administration offering their condolences and informing her that her monthly benefits were changing because of the death of her husband Stephen.

“I’m not dead. Look at all the paperwork. Look at me. I’m still alive. I’m still kicking,” Dutton said.

Last month, Dutton began receiving calls from his doctors’ offices telling him his Medicare payments were not going through. He says one of those calls came from Roper St. Francis Health Berkeley Hospital. They told him Medicare was not paying his bills because they had him listed as deceased.

“Somewhere down the line, someone did something. I don’t know what,” Dutton said. “I don’t know who did it but I wish they would undo it because it is not very much fun being dead.”

The letter from the Social Security Administration says Dutton was listed as deceased on April 30, 2021. Dutton was admitted to the hospital in early April with a breathing problem where he was treated for several days. He was then moved to a rehabilitation facility which he left after about a week.

He says this situation might be amusing if it didn’t create so many problems.

“They’ve stopped my paycheck. They’ve stopped my Social Security. They’ve stopped everything. I imaging the VA is going to stop my disability,” Dutton said. “I’m going to be without everything. I guess the next step is the banks are going to start taking everything back that I have financed with them.”

While Dutton’s case is rare, it is not unique.

The Social Security Administration keeps a running list of people with a Social Security Numbers who have died. The Master Death File, as it’s called, was audited in 2011. The inspector general found between 2007 and 2010 there were 36,657 removed from that file. That is about 12,000 people erroneously declared dead a year.

Dutton says he does not care whose fault it is, he just wants to be declared undead.

“I’ve talked to I don’t know how many people trying to find out how do I get undead,” Dutton said. “I have called a lawyer and they had never heard of something like this. . . I’ve just about given up.”

Dutton says he has reached out to the state, county and his congressional delegation for help to no avail.

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