A Simcoe man was puzzled recently when he received a letter from the federal government addressed to “The estate of the late Walter VanEvery.”
VanEvery, 64, was sure he was up and around and didn’t recall seeing his obituary in the newspaper.
All joking aside, what looked at first like a humorous gaffe has turned into a difficult knot to untie. And federal officials’ inability to correct the record in a timely manner is taking an emotional toll on VanEvery and his family.
“If it happened to you, you wouldn’t be chuckling,” VanEvery said during an interview at his home on Austin Crescent. “It’s a kind of identity theft.”
VanEvery turns 65 Oct. 31. He was cruising toward his Canada pension but has since learned that this is on hold.
Since he received his death notice on Aug. 9, VanEvery has been told — on separate occasions — that the mix-up does not affect his CPP eligibility, that his Canada pension will not be available to him Nov. 1, and that the government has no record of him applying for CPP.
As well, the Canada Revenue Agency issued a notice on Aug. 2 that “the estate of the late Walter VanEvery” must repay $145 for a cheque issued in June under the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit program.
VanEvery recently dropped in on the local firm that prepares his taxes to collect some records. Mysteriously, VanEvery’s tax records are no longer accessible from the company’s computer system.
During his career, VanEvery was a truck driver and heavy equipment operator. Back issues have arisen and he is collecting Ontario disability payments. He is grateful the error has not affected this income stream.
But his status as a “deceased” Canadian no longer eligible for CPP has cast a pall of financial uncertainty over his household.
Walking through the paperwork she would have to deal with if she were widowed has been distressing for wife Sharon VanEvery. She has taken solace in recent days in Elvis Presley’s music and his movies.
“They have me down as a ‘widow’ now,” she said. “That was so hard to see. Thank God for family and friends. They’ve been very supportive. We feel we have people on our side.”
Dr. Jeff Tschirhart of Simcoe is among the latter. Tschirhart has provided the VanEverys with a letter stating Walter’s social insurance number and the fact that he is “currently alive and well.”
“He was in office today (Aug. 16/19),” Tschirhart wrote.
Service Canada officials have provided the VanEverys with a potential explanation: Officials suspect a Canadian died recently with a social insurance number similar to VanEvery’s. They suspect VanEvery’s number was filed with paperwork required to register the death.
If so, the VanEverys wonder if there is a family out there in the same bureaucratic limbo.
Service Canada has told VanEvery to stand by. He’s been told a Service Canada representative will be in Norfolk County in the near future and that he should prepare for an interview.
Meanwhile, the Nov. 1 deadline for VanEvery’s first pension cheque is approaching. VanEvery hopes federal officials sort this out before he’s out of pocket.
Local MP Diane Finley has been apprised of VanEvery’s situation. Her staff is working to rectify the error.
On Aug. 20, Finley said these things take time because identity theft is a common, serious problem across the country.
“Precautions have to be taken to make sure there is no abuse by another person,” Finley said.
“Service Canada has to make sure the person claiming to be the live Walter VanEvery is, in fact, not a fraudster. If he were a fraudster, the situation would be even worse for Mr. VanEvery.
“We all want to make sure that Mr. VanEvery gets this sorted out. We want to make sure to double-check every step along the way.”