Sunday, June 25, 2006

Social Security

My adventure with Social Security started the day after my mother died. I called the 800 number to report her death. The agent I talked to typed on her computer a few seconds and then told me that my mother's death had already been reported my the funeral home. So I asked her if I could find out if there was going to be any survivors benefit or death benefit for my Dad. I could hear he type a few more strokes on the keyboard then she told me that there would be no survivors benefit for my Dad because both parents were receiving benefits based on their own employment records. She did tell me that he would get the $255 death benefit. But we could not apply for it right away because her computer was down. I was told that I would have to call back later next week when the computer system would be back up.

I didn't bother pointing out that her computer system was working just fine when she looked up all that information she just told me. I knew it wouldn't get me anywhere.

So Dad and I left town the next day and I figured that I would call them back once we got to Cheyenne.

Once we finally got to Cheyenne I found a letter from the social security office pointing out to us that we had called concerning his death benefit payment over a week ago and had not called back and that we needed to contact the local Social Security office as soon as possible. The date on the letter was the day after I had called them and was told to call back the next week. Isn't it funny how their computer system only seems to work when they need it for things like looking up information, or sending me follow-up letters to phone calls but that it doesn't work when I need it to?

So Dad and I stopped by the local Social Security Office. We walked into the office and were greeted by an armed guard who asked what we wanted. I told him that my mother had just passed away and we needed information about applying for a death benefit. He pushed a number on a keypad and handed us a little slip of paper with a number on it and told us to take a seat.

We sat down to wait. I could not help but listen to the elderly lady who was at the window talking to the agent. She was complaining that the Medicare part D company that she signed up with was double charging her for her premiums. The agent typed a few things on her computer and did admit that the lady was being double charged for her premium. Then she told the lady that there was nothing she could do about that. The lady had to contact her Medicare part D provider. The lady complained that she had done that and they claim they are not double charging her. The social security agent told her that she couldn't do anything for her. When the lady started loudly complaining that they were the ones who told her she had to sign up for this plan in the first place. When she asked what she was supposed to do now, the agent told her that she would have to deal the Medicare part D provider herself. At that point the armed guard, who had walked over behind the woman, took her gently by the arm and escorted her out of the room.

Next it was Dad's and my turn. I told the agent our names and said that we were following up on the report of my mother's death and wanted to file for the death benefit while I showed her the letter we had telling us to contact the local office as soon as possible.

The agent typed a few things into her computer and verified to us that my mother's death had been reported by the funeral home 12 days earlier.

I then asked about signing up for a survivor benefit and the death benefit. The agent typed into her computer a few more moments and then informed us that there would be no survivor or death benefit paid to my father. This statement rather confused me. I understand that he may not have been eligible for a survivor benefit but I thought everyone received the $255 death benefit.

When I asked why Dad would not be getting the death benefit payment I was told that that benefit had been eliminated in 1984. Again this confused me, but when I started trying to figure out how to rephrase my question I noticed the guard starting to move our direction.

Then as we started to turn away from the window the agent asked my Dad if he wanted to make an appointment to bring by his marriage and birth certificates? With both of us looking confused I asked "Why does he need to do that?"

The agent replied that they needed copies of the marriage certificate to show proof of relationship, and Dad's birth certificate to show proof of citizenship so that he could get the $255 death benefit.

Mind you this is the same death benefit that she had just told us had been eliminated in 1984 and that Dad was no longer eligible for.

So my Dad made an appointment to bring those documents in on July 10.

When we got home Dad found the documents he needed and wrote his appointment on his calendar. I just hope that he doesn't run into the same obviously insane agent that we spoke to that morning.

I truly felt sorry for all the people waiting in line when we left the Social Security Office. I also understand why I hear people complaining about dealing with Social Security. I have only had to deal with two people so far and both of them were completely incompetent. One bold faced lied to me. The other one couldn't even keep the stories she was telling me straight from one sentence to the next. Both treated me like I was a complete moron who didn’t have a clue as to what was going on around me. Even more scary is that one of them had an armed guard making sure that no one hasseled her in any way.

Man I am really starting to dread retirement if this is the kind of people that I will have to depend on for my Social Security Income.

No comments: