The year was 2007 and Madeline-Michelle Carthen – a 52-year-old woman from Missouri – was a student at Webster University. She was interested in the school’s international intern exchange program, which took place in the summer of that year, but she never could’ve predicted what would happen next.
While going through the financial aid process, she learned that the Social Security Administration (SSA) added her name to the Death Master File – ‘an internal database that collects records of dead people who have Social Security numbers,’ according to PEOPLE. Basically, the government thought she was dead.
She was being told that she was erroneously identified as deceased on her Social Security record, which basically means the government had her records in a ‘deceased warehouse’ and she was technically listed as dead. It allegedly occurred in November 2006, but she didn’t find out until four months later.
All of a sudden, Madeline-Michelle Carthen was being denied financial aid and told she wouldn’t be able to graduate, but that was just the beginning of what turned into a 16-year battle with the government. It’s a battle she’s still in the middle of today and it’s not just her that’s facing the consequences – her son is too.
Over the past 16 years, she has fought tirelessly to prove she’s alive and the mishap was on their end, but she says the matter has yet to be resolved and she has received six erroneous death letters since 2007. She says she had to give up her home, can’t get a mortgage, and has a hard time keeping a job.
She has tried to contact four U.S. presidents and several other government officials – pleading for help in resolving this mystery – but she only heard back from Donald Trump. While she eventually filed a lawsuit against the SSA in 2019, but the government said they had ‘sovereign immunity’ and nothing came of it.
The SSA recently released a statement that said they have reached out to Madeline-Michelle Carthen and defended their position – maintaining that they receive more than 3 million reports of deaths every single year and do their best to ensure records are ‘highly accurate,’ but occasional mishaps will happen.
Madeline-Michelle Carthen Changed Her Name in 2021
In an effort to solve the issue herself, Madeline-Michelle Carthen decided to change her name in 2021 – she used to be known as Madeline Coburn prior to that. While she received a new social security number during the process, she continued to face setbacks and things grew even more complicated after that.
According to PEOPLE, her ‘court-ordered new name is misspelled in some government databases.’ She also says her E-Verify has the wrong social security number listed – for those who don’t know, E-Verify is what most employers use to verify an individual’s eligibility to work. In short – the problem wasn’t solved.
While she says she can get a job fairly easily, her social security issue eventually catches up to her when HR can’t process payroll due to her social security issue and they’re forced to let her go. It also means she can’t sign her son’s Federal Student Aid application – which means he’s unable to attend school.
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“I’m dealing with aortic valve regurgitation and atrial fibrillation. I’m in stage three kidney renal failure. How is it that I can go through these things and they classify me as dead and I’m not, but I’m on disability?” she said in her interview with PEOPLE magazine. “Everything has been stripped from me. I’m blocked.”
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