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Missouri Woman Fights to Prove She’s Alive After U.S. Government Declares Her Dead



Madeline-Michelle Carthen is trying to prove that she's alive.
Madeline-Michelle Carthen has been trying for 17 years to prove that she's alive. (Screenshot)

Madeline-Michelle Carthen’s life took an unexpected turn in 2007 when she discovered that the US government had declared her deceased. And despite her numerous attempts to prove her existence, the 52-year-old Missouri resident continues to grapple with the bureaucratic nightmare that has plagued her life for over a decade and a half.

“I don’t care what A.I. says or software says, but I’m alive,” she defiantly states, but proving it has proven to be a monumental challenge.

The saga began in 2007 when Madeline-Michelle was pursuing her education at Webster University. To her astonishment, she was denied financial aid, leading to a startling revelation: she had been placed on the Death Master File, a Social Security Administration (SSA) list that records the deaths of individuals connected to Social Security numbers. The baffling part? She had no idea how her name had ended up on that list in the first place.

Madeline-Michelle’s predicament swiftly escalated beyond mere inconvenience. Her erroneous status in the Death Master File had repercussions that rippled through various government agencies that became unwitting participants in this bureaucratic maze.

“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,” she told local station KSDK News.

“It’s like a haunting,” she describes the ordeal, which has plagued her adult life, thwarting her attempts to graduate from college, secure a mortgage, and even retain employment. “It’s just a matter of time before my Social Security number catches up with me, and then they have to let me go… HR can’t process payroll,” she laments.

In her relentless quest to assert her existence, Madeline-Michelle Carthen has sought assistance from a multitude of sources, including four U.S. presidents and various government officials. She even filed a federal lawsuit against the SSA in 2019, only to have it dismissed due to government sovereign immunity. It seemed that there was no end in sight to her ordeal.

Despite the SSA’s claim that its records are “highly accurate” and that less than one-third of 1% of death reports are subsequently corrected, Madeline-Michelle’s struggle for resolution continues unabated.

“I just want direct answers and haven’t been able to get that,” she said with frustration.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time such an incident has occurred at the SSA. According to the agency’s website, if one suspects they’ve been incorrectly marked as deceased in their Social Security record, they are advised to visit their local Social Security office with proper identification. After rectification, the SSA issues an “Erroneous Death Case – Third Party Contact Notice” to be presented to banks, medical professionals, or others as evidence of the error.

As this baffling saga unfolds, Madeline-Michelle Carthen remains steadfast in her quest for justice and recognition as a living, breathing individual.