Missouri, social security.

Walking Dead: Missouri Woman Still Proving She’s Alive Decades After Government Declared Her Deceased

One St. Louis woman has been trying to reclaim her life ever since she was given the social security number of a deceased person 16 years ago.

In 2007, Madeline-Michelle Carthen, now 52, discovered she had been placed on the Death Master File while trying to apply for financial aid as a student at Webster University. She has been haunted by the error despite having been issued a new number from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and changing her name.

According to The Independent, the old number she was given has kept her from graduating college and qualifying for a mortgage.

Carthen called the mistake “a haunting” and said things didn’t get better when she first found out that she was on the list that tracks those who are deceased with social security numbers.

“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. It’s just a matter before my Social Security number catches up with me, and then they have to let me go … HR can’t process payroll,” she said of the challenges she has faced in keeping a job due to the error.

In 2021, Carthen filed a lawsuit against the SSA that was dismissed after she’d previously tried reaching out to four total U.S. presidents for help. After being assigned a new number that same year and legally changing her name, the woman said she’s still suffering. “Here I am still stuck, and nobody can help,” Carthen shared to The Independent. 

An SSA spokesperson told KSDK in an email that its records are “highly accurate.” The administration’s website provides a guide on what to do for people who find themselves in the same situation as Carthen.