Government Performance: For Instance - help!
Check is in the mail
The first week of June, I lost my hearing. Hearing loss greatly affected my business so I decided to retire, as I am eligible and would also apply for disability as I would be retiring a few years before full retirement. My plan is to 1) repair my ears, 2) go back to work and continue to draw retirement as permitted.
Bear in mind that for the past two years, I have received letters from the Social Security Administration informing me about my life’s employment and Social Security history for planning purposes. They know exactly how much I would be drawing at the moment I say I am ready.
So, now, I am ready. I went online to the Social Security website as they encourage applying online to reduce government paperwork and administration. I am all for that.
I completed the application painlessly the first week of July. They asked if I would like to have an August check, and I checked the box, “yes.” I made a note that I would apply for disability as I have a hearing loss, but at that point I did not know definitively that it would be permanent.
All appeared to be OK and I awaited the check.
Two weeks later, I got a letter acknowledging approval of my application with a note to call or visit the Social Security office for assistance with the Disability Application. Online, I saw the application and attempted to complete it, but a note popped up telling me to come to the office.
The following Monday, I hopped on the train to the Social Security office. There, I walked into a small office with theater style chairs facing a banking of four windows. Between the chairs and the windows was a guard with a sign, “Don’t ask the security guard any questions.”
By the entrance door was a computer terminal and overhead a sign that said, “Sign in.” If you were not familiar with a computer as the elderly Chinese person in front of me, that is a hurdle. In broken English, she was asking for help, but the security guard shrugged, saying touch the screen to sign in.
On the screen there is a list of about eight options that seem intuitive enough, though also seem to overlap in meaning. I helped her pick her option and a number printed automatically from a small printer adjacent the terminal. If one was not familiar with computers and printers, one might not see the number. I handed it to her.
Now, it is my turn. I touched the screen for Disability Claim in progress and received my number.
I am deaf. An electronic sign announcing the number being served is in the back of the room behind the people in chairs who are facing forward toward the service windows. They can’t see the number being served without looking backward.
Numbers are being called from the front, though I cannot hear them because I am deaf. I asked the guard if he heard my number to give to me a nod. He said he is not supposed to but he would let them know I am deaf.
I sat, turning my head to see the numbers and watching intently not to lose my place in line.
Eventually, my number was called. I went to the window and told her I wanted to speak about my disability application and she said, “You pushed the wrong choice. Your claim is not in progress. You should have pushed ‘Disability application.’”
“OK, I made a wrong push, do I have to start over,” I asked?
She said she would let them know and to take a seat.
A half hour passed and then a nice woman appeared to say, “YankeeJim, the disability application specialist is not in the office today, but I will assist you.”
I thought, here I am in the nation’s capital region at a big city Social Security Office and there is only one disability application specialist?
We spent about a half hour walking through the questions that were online with the assistant completing the application.
Finished, I thought, I departed for home to await my check to be deposited in my bank account.
On the specified date in August, the check was not deposited. I received a letter saying that I needed to come to the Social Security Office to complete my application.
What? I already did that.
I returned to the Social Security office checked the best option to get a number and repeated the waiting process in chairs facing the windows.
They called my number and I went to the window to explain my predicament.
The guy at the window said, “You could complete this transaction online.”
Well, I wanted to stick my fist in his face, if nothing more than to give the guard something to do.
I was instructed to return to a seat and await a call from the disability specialist.
Eventually, a nice lady came out to get me. We went to her station and she said we must complete the application. I said I already did this.
She said, “I have no record of that.”
I asked, “What about the person that I met with last Monday who helped me fill out these same forms?”
She shrugged and said, “The position is now open and I am filling in from another office. I am responsible for your case.”
I thought, now I have become a “case.” I am not a case. I just want my check.
She said that my Social Security check is being processed and that I will receive it in September from the August period. I said I applied in July and should have received a check in August.
Well, now it will be September.
What? I can’t hear.
She then explained that I could receive additional money for my hearing disability once “they” approve it which will take six months. She explained the process: first we reject you, then you appeal, and if that doesn’t work, you get a lawyer.
What? I am I hearing this correctly? I am deaf.
I provided enormous detail that even included my answering, “On what floor is your doctor’s office?”
It is now October and I have not received any checks. But, I did receive each letter per week from the same woman at Social Security telling me the check is on its way.
Finally, I received a letter saying they are stopping payment on the check because it cannot be deposited in my bank account.
I had my wife call Social Security as requested in the letter. After they authenticated that she could speak for me, they said that the number they had was off as they had some extra digits and they would contact the bank with the correct information and in a week I would get my August check based on July now to appear sometime in October.
“Beyond the tea party: What Americans really think of government
By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 10, 2010; 12:45 AM
If there is an overarching theme of election 2010, it is the question of how big the government should be and how far it should reach into people's lives.
Americans have a more negative view of government today than they did a decade ago, or even a few years ago. Most say it focuses on the wrong things and lack confidence that it can solve big domestic problems; this general anti-Washington sentiment is helping to fuel a potential Republican takeover of Congress next month.
But ask people what they expect the government to do for themselves and their families, and a more complicated picture emerges.
A new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University shows that most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare "very important." They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.
The study suggests that come January, politicians in both parties will confront a challenging and sometimes contradictory reality about what Americans really think about their government. Although Republicans, and many Democrats, have tried to demonize Washington, they must contend with the fact that most major government programs remain enormously popular, including some that politicians have singled out for stiff criticism.
The new survey also shows that although Democrats and Republicans have rarely seen eye to eye, the gap between the two has widened significantly over a decade of partisan polarization.
Fully 80 percent of Republicans say the government's priorities are misplaced, and just 6 percent express a lot of faith in government when it comes to fixing economic problems or dealing with Social Security.
More broadly, a nationwide report card on the government shows barely passing grades: Washington was a C student in a poll 10 years ago. Today, more than four in 10 people give the government a D or F.”