Government records may show she's legally dead, but 89-year-old Carmen Gonzalez proved she was alive and well on Tuesday.
“I’m not dead ... I’m here. I'm sorry,” she said as she laughed during an interview at her Glendale home.
But the situation is proving to be anything but funny for Gonzalez, as the error has been causing her major problems for the past few months — from not receiving Social Security checks to having her health insurance cut off.
Gonzalez’s ordeal began back in October, when she abruptly stopped receiving her monthly Social Security checks and instead began getting letters explaining that her benefits had been cut because someone had reported her deceased.
“We had to contact SSI and ask them, you know, ‘What's going on?’” said Doris Langoria, Gonzalez’s granddaughter. “And they said, ‘Well, your grandmother is deceased.’ And I said, ‘No, she's not.’ And I said, ‘How can you declare her deceased with no death certificate?’ And they said, ‘Well, the home health center said that she was deceased.’”
Since then, her family has been on a mission to prove the grandmother is alive.
But it hasn’t been easy.
Langoria told KTLA the mistake has had a domino effect on her grandmother’s life, impacting everything from her finances to her health care; Langoria’s aunt, for example, is no longer able to pick up medication for Gonzalez due to her no longer having any Medi-Cal or Medicare coverage.
“She just can't go out and get whatever she needs for her health,” Langoria explained.
Adding to her troubles, Gonzalez’s bank account also fell into the red, she said.
The frustrating ordeal has upset Gonzalez, making her feel “defenseless” and taking an emotional toll on her life, according to the granddaughter.
The family is still trying to pinpoint where the mix-up occurred. The Social Security office determined that she had died on Oct. 5 of last year, which was the same day Gonzalez was discharged from York Healthcare and Wellness Centre in Highland Park.
But in a statement to KTLA, the care facility denied having anything to do with the error.
“We have not informed the Social Security Administration that a resident or former resident has passed away. In fact, it's not the role of a nursing home to report deaths to the Social Security Administration,” the statement read.
One letter from the Social Security office to Gonzalez stated that the error would be corrected; it also noted the agency receives death reports from multiple sources, including family members, funeral homes and financial institutions.