Missing man's family denied benefits

June 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

They have a death certificate, but that's not good enough for the Social Security Administration. A spokesman says his agency has a higher standard of proof before paying out death benefits. And that means Olsen's family finds themselves stuck in the equivalent of a bureacratic Bermuda triangle.

In a rural farm field near the Kane and DeKalb County border, Olsen's image emerges from the scenic scene. Missing for over three now, a sign is one of the ways his daughter remembers her dad.

"A lot of times she'll wave at her dad when we go through the intersection. As we go through, she'll say 'hi daddy,'" said Susan Olsen, Brad's mother.

Olsen's daughter was 6 when her dad disappeared in January of 2007. Olsen was out with friends at a bar in Maple Park. When they were ready to go home, he stayed behind.

"He said he would find a ride home, which he often did, and we haven't seen him since," said Olsen.

Olsen's daughter is now 9 years old. Her mother and grandmother made the difficult decision to ask a court to declare Brad legally dead. Among other things, the ruling would allow Olsen's daughter to receive Social Security benefits totaling nearly $800 a month.

In March, a judge issued an order of presumptive death. Olsen's family finally received his death certificate. Earlier this month, they also received a denial of benefits from Social Security.

"How could they possibly want to deny a child, the survivor child benefits she would rightfully have coming to her?" said Olsen.

A spokesperson for the Social Security Administration cites a federal statute which he says dictates that without a body or eyewitnesses to the death, a family must wait seven years to receive death benefits. "Unfortunately, a court's declaration of death does not meet the criteria pursuant with federal policy…there are no exceptions to this rule," the spokesman said.

Olsen's mother says she and her family will continue to appeal -- and continue their search for answers in Brad's death.

"We will just continue searching forever for Brad until we hopefully find him. They do find people all the time, unfortunately. I do know it's not going to be a good outcome," said Olsen.

The Social Security Administration's website says death certificates are acceptable proof, if they're issued by an authorized agency of the federal government. But a spokesperson says, in this case, a court ruling doesn't cut it.


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