Family to Keep "Dead" Father's Social Security Benefits
A man walked out of court in early October, dead in the eyes of the law. In 1986, the man abandoned his family in Ohio and traveled around the United States trying to find a new life for himself. "It kind of went further than I ever expected it to. I just kind of took off, ended up in different places," the man said.
Over the years, he found and worked jobs in Georgia and Florida, while his wife, children, and parents all believed he was dead. The man also struggled with alcoholism.
The ruling for his death was made official in 1994 when the court ruled he was no longer alive. The decision was based on the man being missing for 8 straight years with no contact to his family.
A strange turn of events would occur later on in 2005 when the man moved back to Ohio, surprising his family. It was then when he found out from his family that according to the United States government, he was now a dead man.
It wasn't until recently that the man had attempted to correct his legal status. The man wanted to reinstate his Social Security number, as well as his driver's license. The man, now 61 years old, would also be entitled to Social Security benefits in upcoming years.
The man's ex-wife asked the court to uphold the death ruling, as a reversal would require her to pay back her husband's "death" benefits that she had acquire over the years. This amount totalled over $26,000. The woman claimed that she did not have the resources to pay back such a large amount. The money had been used to support the family the man had left behind.
She would go on to say that though she sympathizes with her ex-husband, it was his choices that took him down this road.
Judge Davis, the Judge presiding over the case called the situation "strange," citing the fact that the "dead" man was indeed alive. "We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health," the Judge said.
Davis went on to say that although the man was alive, there is a three-year deadline to which the ruling can be appealed. It has been 19 years since the ruling was originally made, thus the ruling would stick. In this case, the law would be enforced to protect the family who had been relying on the social security benefits over the years. The man could still challenge the ruling in federal court, but does not have the resources to do so.