On Oct. 3, the Social Security Administration deposited $1,534 into Jean Kozak's bank account.
The 92-year-old died later that night.
The funeral home notified Social Security of her death, but by then, the federal agency had already issued Kozak's next $1,534 payment, deposited Nov. 1.
Upon hearing of Kozak's passing, Social Security took back both payments, totaling $3,068.
Kozak's daughter, Judy Weingartner, went to the agency's website and discovered that benefit payments are granted based on the previous month. That meant Kozak was entitled to the Oct. 3 payment because she was alive the entire month of September.
Getting Social Security to return the $1,534 has not been easy.
Weingartner said her husband visited Social Security's Chicago Heights office Nov. 6 and was told the Oct. 3 payment would be redeposited within eight weeks.
That didn't happen. In ensuing calls and visits, the family says it was given contradictory information.
At one point, Weingartner was told she needed to produce her birth certificate and a letter from probate court proving she was the executor of her mother's estate, she said.
But in subsequent conversations with Social Security, she was told she also had to fill out a special form and supply birth certificates from both her brothers.
On Jan. 21, Weingartner's husband returned to the Social Security office with the documents. He was told the $1,534 had already been issued, Weingartner said.
When she called a week later, she was told the money had not, in fact, been processed and she still needed to submit the required documents, she said.
Frustrated and confused, she emailed What's Your Problem?
"My mother had Alzheimer's, and we took care of her every need for 11 years, and now we have to deal with insensitive workers that are giving us the runaround," she said. "I am not giving up, as my mother was entitled to that check."
Weingartner said her mother's will states that her bills must be paid before her heirs get anything. About $1,700 of medical bills remain, Weingartner said.
"I just want a straight answer on what needs to be done," she said. "I'm not trying to get anything from them that (my mother) isn't entitled to."
The Problem Solver contacted Carmen Moreno, spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration.
Moreno said that when her agency received notice that Kozak had died, it retrieved the October and November payments as a protection against fraud.
Kozak was entitled to the Oct. 3 payment of $1,534, Moreno said. In the wake of her death, her children are entitled to the money.
Social Security has strict rules about issuing such payments, again to protect the agency from fraudulent claims. Kozak had three children, so the payment will be issued in three equal checks to Weingartner and her two brothers.
Moreno called Weingartner, explained what documents she needed to produce, then set up an appointment for her at the Chicago office Thursday.
Weingartner dropped off the proper paperwork that day. At roughly the same time, her brother in Arizona visited a Social Security office there and submitted a copy of his birth certificate.
On Friday, Moreno said the family's application will be approved.
"It's supposed to be expedited," Weingartner said. "I don't know what that means to them."
Moreno said the money should be sent in about 10 days.
Weingartner, who works for the state, said Social Security should have told her in early November exactly what she needed to do to claim the money.
"It's just silly rules. I know how it is. I work for bureaucracy," she said. "It's just cumbersome and uncalled for."