Widow's Social Security account shut down after office lists her as dead

Mistake corrected after News 6 gets involved

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

Hours after Janet Roush’s husband lost his battle with cancer, she dutifully contacted the Social Security office by phone to file for benefits.

Larry Roush, 87, the man she loved for 52 years, died on Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. 

Roush told News 6 after she met with the funeral home, she called the Social Security office to apply for spousal benefits.

“I was on the phone for approximately an hour,’ Roush said. “He (the representative) asked me for my husband’s Social Security number, his address, where he was born, and he repeated everything to me.”

Roush said the conversation was tape recorded to verify the proper spelling of her name.

“He said I would receive a letter in three weeks telling you of what we’ve done today,” she recalled. “Then I went to Publix to buy a few groceries that I needed and my debit card was declined.”

That is when everything in Roush’s world started falling apart.

When she called her bank to find out what had happened, she  was told her account had been closed.

“They said Social Security says you and your husband are both dead, deceased,” she said. “I said, 'What are you talking about? I’m talking to you.'”

She was advised to “take the matter up” with the Social Security office. 

When she called to explain what had happened, she said they could not arrange a meeting until April 2.

She called News 6 Investigator Mike Holfeld to explain the confusion, in less than 24 hours a resolution was reached.

In a statement to News 6, Patti Patterson, regional communications director for the Social Security office in Atlanta said in part, "We reached out to Mrs. Roush and provided a status on her case."

According to Patterson, privacy protocol limits what she can share publicly.

Patterson did indicate that roughly 2.8 million deaths are reported to the Social Security Administration each year and their records “are highly accurate.”

“If a person suspects that they have been incorrectly listed as deceased on their Social Security record, they should visit their local Social Security office as soon as possible,” Patterson said..

They can locate their nearest Social Security office by clicking here

Because News 6 contacted the Social Security office, Roush's account was reopened in less than 24 hours after we contacted the agency.

“You definitely got results,” Roush said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I wish I could talk to the whole world and tell them what you’ve done.”

Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will join her for a special memorial service for her husband on Sunday.

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