SPOKANE — Eight years after a judge declared him dead, the Social Security Administration says Judy Sullivan's husband is alive, and it wants back more than $90,000 in widow's benefits she has received.
But Sullivan doesn't think the person who applied for a new Social Security card and driver's license in an unspecified Eastern state is Jack Sullivan, her husband of 25 years who disappeared without a trace in 1991.
Larry Weiser, director of Gonzaga University School of Law's legal assistance clinic, said Monday that Sullivan, who is disabled and lives in a rented single-wide trailer, doesn't have the resources to wait the year or more Social Security appeals can take.
Social Security officials have not responded to her requests to prove the person is not an identity thief, Weiser said.
....Judy Sullivan, 64, lives in rural Chattaroy, north of Spokane. Facing a demand that she return nearly $91,000 in "overpayments" she received the last eight years, she said Monday she doubts her husband is alive.
....Jack Charles Sullivan, a well driller who would be 65, called to ask his wife to join him for lunch in Temecula, Calif., on June 11, 1991. She was unable to meet him and never saw or heard from him again.
Nor did any of his brothers, a partner in a well-drilling company or lifelong friends, according to Social Security administrative-law records.
The Oldsmobile that Jack Sullivan was driving has never been found and apparently has not been registered again with any state licensing agency, Weiser said. Three company checks Sullivan had with him that day have never been cashed.
But now, without offering any proof of his being alive, SSA has turned Mrs. Sullivan's life upside down:
In May, the Social Security Administration stopped paying the $867 a month widow's benefit that had been Sullivan's sole source of income.
The agency sent her letters saying it expects payment of nearly $91,000 she has received since 1999 and threatening to garnish $400 of the $623 she now receives each month through her own Social Security account and Supplemental Security Income.
Citing privacy laws, Social Security refuses to say where Jack Sullivan is living or working.
....Since a Social Security investigator approached her with the news in February, Sullivan said she has suffered a stroke and cannot walk without assistance. She also suffers from Parkinson's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
"I would like to know if he is alive, where he's been, what happened to him, or if he's not alive," Sullivan said. "I have to know something. This is just destroying me."
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