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Woman is trying to prove she’s still alive after being mistakenly declared dead in 2007

Anish Vij

Published 
| Last updated 

Woman is trying to prove she’s still alive after being mistakenly declared dead in 2007

Featured Image Credit: NBC News

A living, breathing Missouri woman is trying to prove she is still alive after officially being declared as dead.

Madeline-Michelle Carthen, from St. Louis, was looking forward to joining Webster University's intern exchange program, when she received the shock news that her social security number was associated with a deceased person.

16 years later, the now 52-year-old can't keep a job because of her 'false' papers and is struggling to obtain a mortgage.

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When Carthen was juggling being a business technology student and a mother to a 13-year-old, she decided to apply for financial aid in 2007.

The officer told her that her social security number was associated with that of a dead person and her application was therefore denied.

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After contacting the social security administration (SSA), they informed her that her name was added to a death master file, 'in error', she claims.

"I laughed. I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m sitting right here. I’ve been at school over a year and a half. … How am I dead? Is this going to affect my international internship?’" Carthen told NBC affiliate KSDK News.

Madeline-Michelle Carthen, 52, from St. Louis. Credit: KSDK News
Madeline-Michelle Carthen, 52, from St. Louis. Credit: KSDK News

"I just know I'm alive. I don't care what A.I. says or software says, but I'm alive. But it's hard to prove that.

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"Well, it got worse, because it wasn’t creditors. Being in the death master file, it went to the IRS, it went to the Department of Homeland Security, it went to E-verify, all of these things. It just started affecting my life."

In 2019, Carthen filed a lawsuit against the SSA and other government agencies but it was denied due to sovereign immunity.

Two years later, she claims the SSA gave her a new social security number, and that she legally changed her name from Madeline Coburn.

Sadly, the new number still gets flagged with the old one.

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The 52-year-old can't keep a job because of her 'false' papers and is struggling to obtain a mortgage. Credit: KSDK News
The 52-year-old can't keep a job because of her 'false' papers and is struggling to obtain a mortgage. Credit: KSDK News

"Sometimes I can get a job and then within so many months, there’s going to be a problem," she explained.

"So it’s like I can get it and then it’s yanked back from me. But I don’t know when it’s going to be yanked back."

"Here I am still stuck, and nobody can help. I just want answers."

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KSDK of St. Louis is now working together with Carthen in the hopes of fixing the issue.

"I don’t know how this is going to work out. I just keep advocating and fighting and when I say fighting, within my spirit. Sometimes I wanna give up but my faith is too strong," she added.

"I don’t care if it takes 20 years, I’m going to still do what I got to do to make this situation right, not just for myself but for others."

UNILAD had contaced SSA for comment.

Topics: News, US News

Anish Vij
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