Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worrying about the wrong thing

Back in December, I dutifully filed for Social Security online, just as Lt Sulu told me to do. Piece of cake, right?


See, the problem here is that whilst you, as the filer, may be able to take advantage of 21st century technology to file, it's still the 1930s at the other end of the pipeline, and it is there that the pipeline chokes.

The first sign of trouble came last week, when a crack Social Security rep called me with "a couple of questions." The first one I expected. It isn't enough to say "no, I'm not filing for Medicare Part B because we're enrolled in my wife's public sector retirement programme." It is necessary to repeat that several times, going slower each time and using smaller words with each iteration.

We got through that, and the rep says, "what was your state of birth?" I was tempted to say "a baby," but a lucky instinct warned me I was dealing with someone unfamiliar with humour. I answered, truthfully, New Hampshire. The rep digested this for a moment, and I asked "why?" It seems that some GS-1 on their end had somehow made my place of birth Concord, MA, instead of Concord, NH. Either the party at the keyboard had never heard of Concord, NH, or by a feat of digital gymnastics typed MA for NH. Look at the keyboard and you'll how interesting a feat this is. Look at the average scroll-down list for state abbreviation and you'll find that even more challenging.

This error is my fault, somehow. According to today's follow-up message,  it is now my problem to prove that I was indeed born where I was, and not where the stupidity of a Social Security grunt says I was. To do this a certified copy of my birth record will not do: it must be an original. (Social Security says nothing about returning this original document, by the way.)  This, mind you, is from what is supposed to be an all-powerful, all-knowing Government. They can't pick up the phone and confirm my place of birth with a small city bureaucracy. Come on, I'm not John Smith: I have one of the rarest names in the country. How hard should this be?

Piece of cake, says my librarian spouse:  just go online and file with Concord Vital Records. Uh huh. Concord NH may be more advanced than Social Security, but they have not quite made it to 2013. All one can do is download a .pdf application, fill it out and snail mail it to Concord with a copy of a "government issued photo ID." Oh good, a copy: I won't have to go without a driver's licence indefinitely. Presumably, in a few weeks they will get around to snail mailing the embossed original, on parchment, maybe?

Time, meanwhile, is marching on. The rep said that I should  receive my first deposit on April 24. I am now embarking on a bureaucratic journey that I expect will take as much as two months. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, the process stops. Any delay will presumably be my fault as well.

Sorry, George Takei. At the other end of the Web application process is a bureaucracy for which typewriters seem to be a novelty. When I receive the parchment from Concord, I'm supposed to stuff it into an off-size, oddly-coloured envelope addressed in a scrawl that seems to have originated in the Yerkes Primate Centre.

Those who are beating the drums about the possibility of reduction of Social Security benefits have misdirected their anxieties. The real concern is whether the creaking, primitive bureaucracy that is the Social Security Administration is capable of dealing with 10,000 people a week retiring for the next 17 years. Based on this instance, I suggest the bureaucracy will collapse long before the money runs out. We, poor schmucks, will die off in the wake.

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Blogger massmarrier said...

I'm so delighted you are leading the team charge here and get to make your agon first and repeatedly.

9:24 pm  
Blogger Uncle said...

I'm glad to know y'all appreciate my sacrifice.

11:28 pm  

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