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Colorado woman mistakenly declared dead by Social Security Administration struggles with tax problems
Colorado woman mistakenly declared dead by Social Security Administration struggles with tax problems

Grieving the loss of a loved one and managing their estate is a difficult process. But for one Douglas County woman, reporting her mother’s death resulted in her own life being mistakenly ended on paper, and she is still struggling with the consequences today.

When Judy Olson lost her mother in February 2021, she put her grief aside and followed the instructions her mother left in a “toe-up file.”

Olivia Young of CBS Colorado interviews Judy Olson

CBS


“Here are all the things you need to do when I die,” Olson said.

At the top of the list was the notification from the Social Security Administration about her mother’s death. The person on the phone asked for Olson’s and her mother’s Social Security numbers.

“I asked why you need my information. He said to check who you are and if you are related,” Olson said.

Olson then went to the bank to close her mother’s trust, where the manager told her shocking news.

“‘Judy, you’ve been a customer here for 15 to 20 years, so we know who you are. But when we checked your account, you were considered deceased,'” Olson said.

Olson was still very much alive, but no longer had access to her accounts.

“Why did this happen? How did this happen?” Olson asked.

Olson took every piece of identification she could think of to the Social Security Administration to arrange for her resuscitation.

Social Security Administration

CBS


“The lady I spoke to was very nice. She apologized profusely and said she could only imagine that this could have happened because the person on the phone accidentally marked me as deceased. She said, ‘It’s clear that you are you, and we’ll take care of it,'” Olson said.

After two weeks, Olson had access to her accounts again.

“Social Security restored my life, so I got all that done,” Olson said.

She thought the ordeal was behind her, apart from the occasional joke.

“Someone then said, ‘Well, at least you’re not dead like Judy,'” Olson said.

Until she filed her mother’s 2021 tax return in 2022 and never received the refund.

“‘We are working on your account, we need another 60 days to send you a complete response.’ This is a different date, same letter, 60 days,” Olson said as she read through various letters from the IRS.

Olson doesn’t know if the problem is related to her now-reversed death.

“They went to my Social Security and said, ‘Yes, you’ve been marked deceased, you’re not deceased anymore, so we can go ahead with everything,'” Olson said.

Judy Olson’s mother

Judy Olson


She has called and visited the office several times and even filed another lawsuit in 2023.

“‘We are sorry, but since we do not have proof of receipt of your tax return for the period above, we must ask you to re-file it,'” Olson read from another letter.

But she still hasn’t received the nearly $4,000 she’s owed.

“We’re still waiting, and when I go online and check it, it still says ‘pending,'” Olson said.

Or the degree she waited three and a half years for.

“Just some peace of mind. It kept me from really emotionally processing my mother’s death. And as a trustee, I felt like I had to do everything right and get it done for everyone. It definitely delayed my grieving process quite a bit,” Olson said.

An IRS spokesperson told CBS Colorado that they are not legally authorized to comment on individuals’ taxes, but suggested Olson contact the agency’s Taxpayer Advocate Service.

The Social Security Administration recommends that anyone who has been mistakenly declared dead should go to the nearest Social Security office as soon as possible with proof of identity.

By Everly