Sunday, December 8, 2013
"The Death Certificate Is Wrong. How Do I Have It Changed?"
When I requested my mother’s death certificate the first time, I was denied a copy despite having all of the required documentation requested. They sent me a letter back stating that I was denied because the information that I provided was different than the information on file for her. I already knew that they had her information (date of birth and social security number) wrong. However, I did not know that I would be denied because of it. In order to obtain her death certificate, I would have to file the application using the incorrect information that they placed on the death certificate. To find out what information was put on the death certificate, I wrote an extensive e-mail to the public fiduciary and the funeral home explaining the circumstances and requesting that they provide me with the information on file. I had no problems obtaining this information, the Public Fiduciary called me and gave me the information and also sent me an e-mail confirming what she had given me on the phone. With the incorrect information, I filed another application for the death certificate. This time they processed my request and ran my credit card! Now, I am just waiting for the copy to arrive in the mail.
Even though I was able to obtain a copy of the death certificate and I would finally know what my mother died of—I was still uncomfortable with the fact that all of her information on file was incorrect. I do Genealogy projects as a hobby and I know how vital the proper information is to trace someone’s life and lineage. In addition to that concern, I was worried that my mother’s real social security number was floating around out there subject to identity theft. I voiced these concerns to the Fiduciary and the funeral home, but received an unsatisfactory response. I was told that it was possible that she was living under another identity (that it happened frequently with indigents and transients). Unsure how to deal with the issue, I started doing research on my own about how I might be able to have the information changed.
Due to the concern of identity theft with her real social security number and the fact that she was assigned a number in death that did not belong to her, I figured that the Social Security Administration would most interested in fixing the issues. Boy what I wrong… the response that I received from them was that I would have to go in to a Social Security Office and sit down to talk with someone and they would try to see what could be done, but that those issues needed to be handled by the original filer of the death certificate. Reaching the ultimate point of frustration, after hitting road block after road block, I just stopped trying.
Then as I was doing research for the Foundation one day, I came across some information about requesting information changes on a death certificate. In all of the requests I made and the people that I talked to- no one at all told me that the family can request to have a death certificate amended. Really?! The whole time it was as easy as filing an application for death certificate amendments?! And I could just do that on my own… but it would cost me $30.00. And I felt that the easiest and best way to file the request was to provide as much proof as possible via documentation about her identity, so that I would not have to go back and forth and file over and over again. I thought I should have her birth certificate to send in with the amendment application, but I did not have it and it costs $27.00 for a certified copy of a birth certificate (here in Ohio). I did not have all that money to spare at the time. I had a problem with the fact that I had to pay them $30 to fix information that they filed wrong on her paperwork. I knew that when she was in the hospital, they had her correct information—which meant the error happened in their office or at the funeral home. Why should I have to pay for their mistake? So I decided to do some more digging and write some more letters requesting that they file to fix the information on her death certificate. The results of this research was satisfying!
I found out that if the information on the death certificate was incorrect due to an error made by the original informant (funeral home or fiduciary office) they are RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING A CORRECTION LETTER. The informant can file an amendment request application and CORRECTION FEE IS WAIVED, as it is their LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY to make sure all information on legal forms is true. Using this method of having the funeral home or fiduciary’s office request the changes to be made, it does not cost the family any money! Most funeral homes are willing to assist the family in doing this if you ask them.
If you cannot get the funeral home or fiduciary to grant your request to submit an correction letter, free of charge to you, it is probably because the information that they had provided to them at the time was all the information they could obtain and therefore, no error was made on their part.
In this circumstance, any immediate family member can request for changes to be made to the death certificate. Like filing for the death certificate, you must provide proof of your relationship to the deceased. You must also provide as much legal documentation as possible to prove the corrections that need to be made. Examples of factual documentation acceptable can be found at http://www.maricopa.gov/publichealth/Programs/Vitals/default.aspx
Changing Identity Information on File with Maricopa County Vital Statistics
When you are requesting to change the identity of a loved one from an indigent status to an individual with a confirmed & validated identity, there is a form that the funeral homes will have you fill out called a VSIM Worksheet. This form asks all of the questions needed to provide as much information as possible about your loved ones identity to file with the state. This worksheet is often required by the funeral home when doing a death certificate correction letter and amendment application.
Each funeral home has their own version or copy of the VSIM worksheet, but you can view a general example of this form here: http://www.angelscremationandburial.com/pdf/VSIM%20Worksheet2.pdf
I know first hand that it can be so emotionally draining to try and deal with all of the paperwork related to someone’s death. When you add the complication of indigence- and you have to rewind and go back to the beginning to dig up the needed info. it is that much more frustrating, upsetting and draining.
Sometimes we need for someone else to pick up the pieces where we left off and help us along in our journey. If you find yourself in this predicament, please please feel free to contact us. White Tanks Angels Foundation will assist the families in walking through all of the the processes of requesting a death certificate, requesting changes to be made, correcting documents and finding out as much information as possible about your loved one’s death. If you have questions or need help, please send an email to WhiteTanksAngels@gmail.com