Name change holding up Knox County woman’s stimulus checks

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — During this strange time of the pandemic, a Knox County woman is finding out how difficult it is to have the Social Security Administration correct a mistake of her legal name.

The government says if you legally change your name because of marriage, divorce or a court order you must tell Social Security so you can get a corrected card.

But one Knoxville couple is frustrated over a mix-up they’ve been trying to correct.

When Joyce Cooper didn’t get her first federal stimulus check last year, she was directed to the Social Security office, but they’re closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So she asked her daughter to help.

Cooper was told her name did not match her Social Security number.

The Coopers, Connie and Joyce, met one another in church and were married in 2003. Both Joyce and Connie lost their spouses years ago.

Connie, a disabled veteran served in Vietnam and also Korea. He is 84 years old. Joyce, who is blind in one eye, receives Social Security disability. She too is 84.

Because of their limited fixed income, neither are required to file a tax return. Nevertheless, both are eligible, under the rules, for the federal stimulus checks. The one sent in January of this year, the other one in April of last year.

Joyce Cooper didn’t receive either one.

The couple does not own a computer. So, Joyce recruited her daughter to assist. She went online to the IRS website to a section dedicated to Economic Impact Payment status. When Joyce’s name and Social Security number were added, she was locked out after several unsuccessful attempts.

The next step was contacting the Social Security office in Oak Ridge.

In a letter sent last September, Joyce was directed to provide documentation to prove her identity and a representative from Social Security talked with her.

“I had to dig out all kind of papers, so frustrating when you get old. And, he said, ‘Oh yes, I see where you changed your name,'” Joyce Cooper said.

Joyce legally changed her name from Nauman, the name of her late first husband, to Cooper in 2016.

“I still get my Social Security check, it goes to my bank,” she said. “Nobody has said anything about my Social Security card doesn’t match my name.”

The couple has been married for nearly 20 years and say they had never had any trouble with Social Security before.

“All of sudden, she don’t belong to me, I reckon,” Connie Cooper said.

Joyce showed us the annual benefits letter she gets from Social Security at the end of the year. Her name on the benefits letter is correct, Joyce Cooper. But in a letter sent by Social Security last September addressed her as Joyce Nauman.

WATE 6 On Your Side contacted Social Security about the issue.  It’s the only agency to correct the problem. Joyce hopes to receive her stimulus checks in these uncertain times.

“Yes, I’d love to have both of them,” she said. “I need them. And I don’t draw hardly anything. If he were to pass away, I don’t know how I would live. Pay my rent and everything.”

Social Security responded to our inquiry about Joyce Cooper’s situation. We’re told the office will reach out to her as quickly as possible and provide any necessary assistance.

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