DIGGING DEEPER: Local man trying to prove to government he’s alive

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 9:06 AM CDT
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CHILLICOTHE (25News Now) - A local man has been trying to prove to the government he is alive, for almost two years.

It all started when Kenneth Majors, 63, called the Social Security Office to receive benefits after his wife died. That’s when he was told, according to the government, he was deceased.

“The first thing that came out of her mouth was, ‘Mr. Majors, I do believe you are alive, but we have you reported as the deceased.’ and I said, ‘Are you kidding me,’ she said, ‘No, I don’t know how it happened,” said Majors.

Since summer of 2021, Majors has been jumping through hoops to prove to the government he’s alive.

“It’s been a nightmare. It really has,” said Majors.

Majors was told by the Social Security Office he was listed as deceased in their system, after trying to receive his wife’s benefits following her death.

She died in 2018, but it wasn’t until he was laid off in 2021 he reached out to Social Security.

Majors had to go to the office on Pioneer Parkway, bringing four forms of identification, to in fact, prove he was alive.

“I had to sign an affidavit, which is the weirdest thing, ‘I hear by certify I’m alive,’ I had to sign and date that with the witness,” said Majors.

Majors received a letter from the office saying he was marked in the ‘Death Master File’ that’s used by many other sources.

As to how his name got there, the agency told him it receives death reports from many sources, including funeral homes, financial institutions, and state and federal governments.

Majors says it took a few months for the Social Security Office to fix his status, however it didn’t stop there.

His unemployment benefits stopped and again, he was had to show up to the Illinois Department of Employment Security Office to prove himself because to Majors’s knowledge, each government office believed or still believed he was dead.

Majors would eventually find himself going to his bank and checking with the person who handles his investments to make sure he was recorded as alive.

“I was getting so frustrated because I had no income. I was living off my savings just chewing it up,” Majors continued, “I didn’t need this extra stress. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t want it. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent just traveling, making the calls or just extra stuff.”

25News cross referenced this with the local keeper of death records. Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood says Majors is alive in the Illinois Vital Records System, which means the state of Illinois knows he is alive.

The coroner says he’s never seen something like this before and wonders if it could have stemmed from a clerical error, like someone reporting a Social Security number incorrectly.

“One digit off can change everything. Even a name with one letter can change it,” said Harwood, “Since he’s not in the system as deceased, it probably came from outside of there.”

While both the employment office and Social Security Office now have his issues squared away, Majors still has not received his tax refund for the past two years. He believes the IRS still has not fixed the issue.

“I just want to be alive. I want to get my two years of refunds. I want to make sure I’m alive in all agencies,” said Majors, “It’s broken me, I went through sort of a depression because of it.”

Majors wants answers and to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“‘How did this happen? Why did it happen? When did it happen?’ Nobody will answer me. They just give me a vague answer,” said Majors.

Majors also contacted his state and federal representatives to help sort this out. He says State Rep. Ryan Spain, (R) Peoria and Congressman Darin LaHood, (R) IL 18 District, offered him some guidance. However, Congressman Lahood’s office says privacy matters do not allow them to talk to 25News about Majors’s situation.

In a letter, the Social Security Office tells Majors it has no proof his information has been misused or stolen, but they provided him with a free year of credit monitoring services.

25News reached out to the IRS and that agency says it also cannot speak on any taxpayer situation, however they do have a ‘help page’ for anyone who is incorrectly recorded as dead in their system.

As for Majors, he’s still waiting, very much alive, to heard that he has been fully restored from the classification of dead.