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2 women, very much alive, declared dead by Social Security Administration | 7 On Your Side


Eileen Zitnak and Yolonda Gates have never met, but both share a devastating distinction, both were declared dead by the Social Security Administration.

“What’s it like to be declared dead when you are very much, as I can see, alive?” 7 On Your Side’s Nina Pineda asked.

“It’s depressing,” Gates said.

Yolonda paid into the system for 30 years while working with special needs children in public schools in Queens.

Last February, the federal agency clawed back five months, more than $10,000, of her benefits.

SSA then sent death notifications which stopped her pension payments and froze her bank account.

The agency even sent out condolence letters to her family members.

“A whole menagerie of problems occurred,” Gates said. “Social Security, with just a flip of a switch, can just erase my life.”

Then SSA took away her medicare benefits, a huge blow to Gates, who’s been battling cancer for nearly two years.

Gates said her cancer medications were so expensive, she went two months without them.

“I couldn’t even pay for my medication,” Gates said. “There were days I was truly struggling.”

Meanwhile, retired travel writer Eileen Zitnak suffered a similar fate.

“I feel like I’ve been in limbo,” Zitnak said. “I am owed more than $11,000 by Social Security.”

Both women visited the agency in person months ago, and each got a letter stating the obvious, but that didn’t work.

“I just want my money and to get on with my life,” Zitnak said.

They both called 7 On Your Side and Nina Pineda stepped in to help.

After Nina called the agency, their Social Security accounts were resurrected, more than $21,000 was restored, all frozen accounts were thawed and both had their Medicare benefits reinstated.

You did a great job for me, I’ll take you to dinner,” Zitnak said.

“It worked. You guys worked,” Gates said.

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