Why would a deceased person not appear on the Death Index?

I tried looking up an acquaintance who had died almost 30 years ago on the Social Security Death Index. I have everything, full first-middle-last name, complete dates of birth, death, and exact location of death.

But nothing came up.

I know they had to of had an SS number as they served in the Army, and had gainful employment as well.

At first I thought it was because they had never received SS benefits, but I looked up another person who also died very young (and 6 years prior) and they were on there.

Any reason why someone wouldn’t appear on the index?

Mistakes are made. No such list is ever perfect.

Note also that you can use any name you want for work purposes. Doesn’t have to be your legal name. And your work name will be what SSA uses.

This flexibility on names can mean someone’s death doesn’t get flagged. The obits, etc. have their real name and the work name person just stops working as far as they are concerned.

I would also consider if there’s a fraud going on. E.g., someone else is using the deceased’s name and SSN.

I have always had spotty results from the SS Death Index. I suspect the real index is OK but the second party interface is wonky.


Yeah, I’m going to go with the mistakes were made route. The guy never used any variation of his name. And he didn’t have a birth name that tended to have nicknames (like Bill for William, Dick for Richard, etc.).

I’ve encountered a few situations where a person’s name was not what everyone thought it was - most commonly, the person used their middle name, not their first (and very few people knew this), or their last name was not the one I knew them by, and not necessarily due to a woman who changed her marital status in any way.

For instance, I went to high school with a boy who died a few years after graduation, and found out that his legal name was not the one he had used in school; IIRC, his mother had remarried and made him use his stepfather’s name at school, even though it was never legally changed. His ex-wife and son also used his “real” name, so it sounds like he didn’t want to be known by the name he used at school.

That wouldn’t be the case here. I’d known this guy his entire life (and even beyond. I remember when his mother was pregnant with him). I know his full name and he had no variations of it.

Somebody just didn’t punch him into the system, that’s all.

You’re certain he is deceased, and not, for instance, merely resting?


I saw his mangled body at the accident scene. As did his fiance and my brother. We’re quite certain he wasn’t only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Inappropriate Monty Python reference.

Don’t apologize. But explain the joke, please. :slight_smile:

It’s a reference to one of the classic Monty Python sketches, the “Dead Parrot” sketch. In it, John Cleese goes to a pet shop, complaining that the parrot he’d just bought is, in fact, dead; Michael Palin, as the shop owner, argues that it’s not dead.


Thanks, kenobi!

I contacted the Social Security folks about the SSDI a few years ago, as my father doesn’t appear on it. The SSDI is not a complete record, as it turns out, and is not published by the SSA, but rather by a few genealogy websites.

Per Wiki: “The SSDI is a database of death records created from the United States Social Security Administration’s Death Master File Extract”, which means that it is not a complete list. Wiki also says: “For most years since 1973, the SSDI includes 93 percent to 96 percent of deaths of individuals aged 65 or older.”

Another factor is that if someone’s death is not reported to the SSA, they won’t have a record of it.

But who reports it and why?

My cousin died in 1982 at age 18. Neither he nor his parents received any SS benefits. Yet he’s on the death index. Why would anyone have reported his death to Social Security?
ETA: Could it have anything to do with the $255 death benefit? Is that one way SS discovers someone is deceased? Is a parent entitled to that benefit if their child dies? But my cousin wasn’t legally a child. He also wasn’t married. I have no idea if my Aunt & Uncle applied for that.

Yeah, survivors’ benefits is the main reason. From the SSA website: “In most cases, the funeral home will report the person’s death to Social Security. If you want them to do that, you will need to give the deceased’s Social Security Number to the funeral director so they can make the report.”

there are also fraud cases where people don’t report a death so they can keep collecting benefits.

“60 Minutes” did a story about that not long ago. One of the interviewees said, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.” :smack: She went to prison for collecting her mother’s SS for over 30 years!

Other than the death benefit is there any other reason why someone would do that? If a person wasn’t receiving benefits and nobody qualified for the death benefit, is there any reason to tell SS about a death?

There’s not any reason to - but I know* that death records in my city include the SS number of the deceased and I suspect the city simply reports all of them to SS.

  • I fairly often need to request death verification- and one of the pieces of info I must provide is the SS number.

Sure: identity theft.