Declared dead in letter from the city, man fights to get his benefits restored

SOUNDVIEW, The Bronx (PIX11) - According to New York City records, William Davis of the Soundview section of the Bronx is deceased.  In fact, he pointed that fact out to PIX11 News during an interview Wednesday in which he was very much alive, well, and frustrated.

 “I don’t understand how they could do this,” Davis said.  “I’m appalled.”

 The 55 year-old’s deceased status has also left moribund his public assistance benefits.  His food-, rent- and cash assistance payments have all been cut off, as well as his medical benefits.

 “If I get sick right now, I couldn’t go to a hospital,” Davis said, “because I have no Medicaid.”  So ironically, the cessation of his benefits due to his being declared deceased actually puts him at greater risk of death.

 On May 14th, Davis received a letter in the mail from the city’s Human Resources Administration that stated two things in black and white.  One was his name, the other was his benefits status.

 “‘Is deceased,'” Davis read from the letter.  “‘Is deceased,’ yes.  That was quite upsetting to me.  I didn’t like that at all.

Deceased

On May 14th, Davis received a letter in the mail from the city’s Human Resources Administration that stated two things in black and white. One was his name, the other was his benefits status. “‘Is deceased,'” Davis read from the letter.

 “I just looked at it in print.  That’s what it said.  I knew I wasn’t dead.  I’m living.  I thought immediately what I could do about it.”

 That same day, Davis — being of sound mind and body, in fact — contested his deceased status by calling a phone number for that purpose that was listed on the letter.  His action led to the New York state government ordering the city to restore his benefits within five days.

 “The 15th day of May, they had an order to put it back,” Davis told PIX11 News.  “Today is June 12th.  It’s still not back.”

 He even got the federal Social Security Administration to send a letter to the city stating that William Davis was not deceased.  That didn’t help either, even though, to his knowledge, all that would be required for New York City to declare him alive again are a few computer keystrokes.

 “It takes a live person to go into the computer, type in a certain code and the computer will regenerate me,” said Davis.

 In the interest of his being regenerated, as he said, PIX11 contacted the city’s Human Resources Administration.  An HRA spokesperson, Carmen Boon, said in an email that she could not “admit or deny somebody receives or has applied for public assistance because that person is protected by privacy laws.”

 However, HRA did acknowledge that cases like Davis’s happen, although very rarely.  When they do happen, the spokesperson said, as long as the recipient “still meets eligibility guidelines and complies with all mandated appointments as part of the application review process, the benefit should be reinstated…”

 Davis told PIX11 News that he is still waiting for his reinstatement notice.



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