Her Death? Exaggerated!

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A frightened-looking 92-year old woman named Mary Sims visited the offices of The Black Star News accompanied by her daughter, Beverly Sims, a 62-year-old spring chicken, on Monday.

The younger Sims first discovered her mother had a problem when she tried to withdraw money and found Zero balance. At first they thought some identity thief had stolen the money—it was worse than that.

What was the cause of the woman’s agitation? Someone had spread false rumors of the elder Sims’s death. As a result the Social Security Administration suddenly stopped sending her monthly benefits after seven years—her late husband’s pension.

The younger Sims says she has made several calls and visits, beginning on February 21, 2006, to the Social Security office at Parker Avenue in the Bronx and that officials kept giving her the run-around. “Oh, it says here that she expired,� one clerk commented, referring to her mother, after a computer check. She noted that the person who made the data entry was on vacation and that Sims would have to wait two weeks until they returned. “I don’t know of any business where something can be left on hold for two weeks,� Sims notes wryly. “That made me very suspicious.�

Another official, Daniel Morris, told her that the checks had been cut off because a death certificate #423-819-03, had been issued showing that the elder Sims had died in 2003. “They told me to get the records and to prove that my mother was alive,� the younger Sims laments. “Why should I have to do this when he has the resources to do this? It’s his agency that made the error. My mother hasn’t received a check in three months and hasn’t been able to pay rent,� adds the younger Sims, who also cares for her mother. The younger Sims is worried that the premature talk about her mother’s death may actually result in her health declining. Morris also informed Sims that he was going by data entered into the computer from the “field office.�

She is also worried that there may be greedy schemers out there in the practice of issuing false death certificates in order to grab apartments from the elderly. When the younger Sims contacted the Bureau of Vital Statistic, she was informed that the bureau never issued death certificates beginning with a 423 number—4 covers Queens residents, not the Bronx, which is Sims’s case. Yet, the bureau checked its own records and found that there was indeed a death certificate # 156-238-1903 issued for a Mary Sims, who also died in 2003. After cross checking birth dates, social security # and other information, it became clear that that Mary Sims was different from the one who is alive and needs her checks. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that there is something rotten in Denmark,� declares the younger Sims. “I’ve never encountered this type of incompetence.�

The Black Star News offered the elder Sims a comfortable leather chair to sit on, shook her hands and concluded that she was very much alive. The Black Star News then called Morris at the Bronx office and invited him to speak with the elder Sims and perhaps issue an apology for presuming her demise. He declined the offer.

When The Black Star News managed to reach Morris’s supervisor, Andrea Wilder, she too declined our offer to speak with the elder Sims. Wilder referred us to the Manhattan office, then with a cheery “have a nice day,� hung up on us.
Bernard Rosen, a spokesperson at the Manhattan office was more helpful. He apologized for the mix up after The Black Star News assured him the elder Sims was very much alive. Rosen inquired, might it be possible that the 92-year-old had acceptable forms of ID such as military records? No, we informed. A valid passport? No, we assured. A valid driver’s license? No, we stated. Work I.D.? We confirmed that it appeared the elder Sims had not reported for a 9-to-5 in many years.

The Black Star News then faxed a copy of Sims’s health insurance card to Rosen, and the younger Sims later faxed a letter from her mother’s doctor’s office—Rosen promised to sort out the matter and get back in touch. Separately, The Black Star called the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where a spokesperson is now checking on the death certificates.

As of Tuesday, April 4, 2006, the younger Sims reports that her mother’s account still has Zero dollars. She is worried about possible eviction from her Mitchell Lama apartments.

Stay tuned readers—The Black Star News will post an update to this saga. Others with similar cases of premature death should contact this newspaper.

To contact The Black Star News write editor@blackstarnews.com or call (212) 481-7745. Subscribe to this newspaper and advertise. “Speaking Truth To Empower.�

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