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Exclusive: Staten Island Woman Declared Dead Several Times, But Is Very Much Alive

Margaret Arrighetti, 71, Has A Serious Bone To Pick With Social Security Admin
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Margaret Arrighetti

Margaret Arrighetti (Photo: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Imagine if you were declared dead, not once, not twice but three times and lost your only source of income.

An elderly Staten Island woman who is very much alive and well is living a red tape nightmare, CBS 2’s Mark Morgan reports exclusively.

Back in May, 71-year-old Margaret Arrighetti, just three weeks removed from the death of her husband, Larry, received a startling letter from her insurance company informing her of her own death.

“It upset me to a point, but I was more upset because … Larry was not here,” Arrighetti said.

The insurance company said the Social Security Administration had declared her deceased, so Arrighetti took it up with them. Representatives said they would correct the problem, but did not, much to Arrighetti’s chagrin when she went to buy medicine a month later.

“We went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription … and he said ‘I cannot fill it because your card is invalid,’” Arrighetti said.

Arrighetti found out that she was still declared dead. Meanwhile, her Social Security checks were not being direct deposited in her bank account. The problem was partially remedied by paper checks being mailed to her, but Arrighetti incurred more than $200 in overdraft fees that she feels should be paid by someone.

“I have no place to turn to. The bank informed me I should speak to Social Security or send them letters,” she said.

A Social Security spokesman told CBS 2  that “when a bank puts a death indicator on a joint account, sometimes that covers both parties by mistake” and “in the past, Social Security has not made restitution fees for bank overdrafts.”

When asked if she has any idea whether she’s being listed as deceased or alive, Arrighetti said, “I will cross my fingers and pray to God that I’m alive.”

Arrighetti has no source of income other than the Social Security checks, so she simply wants her money and her life back.

Arrighetti did finally receive her October payment, late, but she has not received written documentation, nor has she been reimbursed for overdrafts. She’s wondering what will happen in November, when her next Social Security check is due.

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