HOUSTON -- Bill Hemphill will be the first to tell you that is he very near death, perhaps just 6 months more to live doctors have told him. But he has a problem with being declared dead before his time.
"I don't know whether it was intentional or a mistake," Hemphill told us from his apartment in the senior assisted living complex Houston Heights Tower.
The 80-year-old, suffering from congestive heart failure, emphysema, and cancer was treated for stomach problems at Methodist Hospital in September. He was released after six days. About a week later, Hemphill said he received a letter from his bank, which had received notification that Hemphill had died.
Suddenly, the man who lives in a one-room apartment on Social Security payments of roughly $9,000 a year was being told his SSI, Medicare, and food stamps were in danger of being terminated.
"There was no reason to take me off of my food stamps. They shouldn't have done it in the first place. But why they did, I don't know," Hemphill said.
Methodist Hospital says its records clearly show that Hemphill was treated and released from its care in mid-September.
KHOU 11 News contacted the Social Security Administration which cited privacy issues in its refusal to clarify what might have happened with Hemphill's records. And Hemphill's bank, a former Sterling Bank branch, now a Comerica branch just a block from his apartment, says it is looking into the mix-up.
"Well I hope so," said Hemphill. "If not, I'm in a world of trouble."
Hemphill, who makes extra money by making and selling beaded necklaces and bracelets, believes the Social Security and Medicare problems have been fixed. He's waiting for his December check to be sure. But he says a representative with the food stamp program told him that they would be sending him forms to fill out. That was a week and a half ago.
"What's the deal? Am I supposed to just sit here and wait?" Hemphill asked. "I'd like to tell them they need a few days of experience of this. See how they can handle it."
Meanwhile Hemphill said friends and his home health care nurse have helped keep his cupboards and refrigerators stocked with food until the food stamp issue is resolved.