THE US government wants to recoup benefits paid to the daughters of a man who was declared legally dead and then turned up alive years later.

Donald Miller jr disappeared in the 1980s, and a death ruling in 1994 allowed his family to get social security benefits. The 62-year-old resurfaced in August last year, saying he had lived in other states and then returned to Ohio.

Miller has tried to undo his death. As he stood in court last year with evidence of his existence, a Hancock County judge turned down a request to bring him back to life, citing a three-year limit for changing a death ruling. The judge did acknowledge it was problematic.

Now the Social Security Administration wants his two daughters to return $47 000 (nearly R500 000) to cover benefits they received as teenagers, according to his ex-wife, Robin Miller. Letters about the requested repayments were sent in April, and the family was stunned.

“If anybody has to pay this back, it should be him [as] we didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

A social security spokesman, Doug Nguyen in Chicago, said the agency was reviewing Robin Miller’s application for a waiver.

She said the family did not defraud the government and tried to find Donald Miller after he vanished by contacting the FBI and hiring a private investigator.

“We honestly thought he was done, dead, gone and out of our lives,” she said. – Sapa-AP