An 84-year-old Montgomery County veteran and his family have spent the last four and a half months trying to prove he’s not dead after an error that occurred for an unknown reason.
Navy veteran Charles Roberts of Bethesda had a long career that involved public service, including time as a safety inspector and a long ago stint as a Prince George’s County Police officer.
After a minor operation at the VA Medical Center in D.C. last December, his social security checks stopped.
His niece, Donna Jasper, who handles his banking and other affairs, contacted the Social Security Administration.
“The other person on the phone said, 'Well, is he still alive?' I said, 'Well of course he’s still alive,'" Jasper recalled. "I said, 'What, do you have him marked as dead?' And he said, 'Yeah, we do.'”
Roberts was told to report in person to the Social Security Administration’s office in Silver Spring. Jasper said a helpful employee there got the checks flowing again.
However, she soon learned that the checks were being sent back to the government instead of being directly deposited into her uncle’s Bank of America account.
That problem appeared to be worked out just this week.
Jasper, a physician, said she still has no idea exactly how her uncle got declared dead.
"There are only certain agencies that can report to social security that there's been a death. It has to either be a funeral director, a hospital, etc.," Jasper said. "For someone who can navigate the system, it's been difficult for me. I can't imagine if they were on their own how it would be for them to do it themselves."
Jasper said she feels it’s important to figure out exactly how this happened so it does not happen to someone else.