Man struggles to revive identity after Social Security Administration declares him dead

Shane Melton, who lives in West Ashley, received a big surprise during what should have been a routine visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Source: WCSC)
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 1:57 PM CDT
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CHARLESON, S.C. (WCSC/Gray News) – A man from South Carolina received a big surprise during what should have been a routine visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Shane Melton learned the Social Security Administration incorrectly declared him deceased when he went to renew his driver’s license.

Melton said he was shuffled into a back room after being accused of impersonating a dead man and stealing his identity.

“They started interrogating me saying I was deceased and told me they’re going to call the cops on me,” he said. “They confiscated my identification, so I left.”

Initially, Melton said it didn’t seem like a major issue, but then he was laid off from his job.

Because the government considers him dead, Melton said companies won’t hire him. His family moved in with his parents in an effort to cut costs.

According to attorney Mark Bringardner, being incorrectly declared dead can cause a lengthy list of problems that could include preventing someone from being able to take out a loan, apply for a job or pass a background check and a credit score will instantly go to zero.

“That will present a whole host of challenges that can’t be fixed overnight and will take several months, if not longer, to fix between submitting the paperwork to the Social Security Administration, as well as the credit score company to restore your credit,” Bringardner said.

Bringardner said being declared dead is not uncommon, adding it’s estimated it happens between 6,000 and 12,000 times a year or more.

“That’s roughly 20 to 30 people a day,” he said. “Usually that occurs because of a clerical error at the Social Security Administration office, a hospital, a doctor’s office, or somebody filling out a form incorrectly and checking the wrong box.”

Catching and correcting the problem quickly is key, Bringardner says.

“Anyone who’s been wrongfully declared dead by the Social Security Administration should contact them immediately and try to submit the paperwork,” he explained.

Melton said he’s gone to the social security office three times with various paperwork, but the items the SSA can use to prove he’s alive require valid identification or only apply to certain people, such as military records or church membership.

“I never thought it would happen to me until I go to the DMV one day and boom, I’m dead. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “I didn’t cause the problem and they’re pretty much making me fix the problem when it’s impossible to fix.”

The SSA did not respond to a request for comment.