Over the phone and in mail, I was told a “life changing event” would affect their decision on that and that retirement was a “life changing event,” even in their lexicon. I already had faxed in a letter from my former employer stating that I had retired in June 2014, but for some reason, someone on the phone told me my “appeal” was denied. Then, when I called a couple of days later, I was told what I filed wasn’t an appeal, even though it’s the document Social Security had mailed to me file to appeal, and they had filled out half of it.
So, after getting through the guards and metal detectors at the federal building, and I have to say the guards were none too nice about a line of, like, two people trying to get in, I walked into the SSA office and a sign said to enter my Social Security number into a computer to register to see a human being.
There were two human beings behind secure counters calling numbers and about 50 people in the waiting area. Not a great start. But, 20 minutes later, I was standing in front of one of the human beings answering her question of how she could help me. For a second I actually thought this was the woman of my Social Security resolution dreams! But, alas, she was merely doing triage and typed into her computer my question while telling me, “Someone will be with you shortly.”
Turning around and seeing those 50 cohorts in the room with me I had a feeling “shortly” had a different meaning to the woman of my Social Security resolution dreams. And, indeed it did.
After about an hour my wife had to go feed the parking meter and, when she returned (about an hour and a half into my wait) I said, maybe we should go and I’ll try another day, and not waste your time, too. But, trooper that she is, she suggested we wait at least until the parking meter was up (side story: she fed quarters into the meter but no time registered. Fortunately, a meter guy was nearby and she told him of the malfunction and he offered no hope or solace. She said she guessed she could move the car. He said that was a good idea. Thank you, Mr. Meter Man!!)
So, we waited some more and, she was right, about 15 minutes later my name was called to go into the inner sanctum, behind the door through which you had to be buzzed to enter, where the real woman of my Social Security dreams waited, I hoped.
I explained, again, my question to the nice young professional looking and acting woman, and she began typing stuff into her computer. She asks a question, then types. Asks another question, then types some more.
I hand her the original letter from my former employer (I had them send me a copy for just such a potential occasion) and she types some more. She makes a copy for their files. She asks what my estimated income would be this year. I have none, but my wife has a little, so we tell her that and round up, just in case something happens and we earn some more.
Then the Social Security lady starts explaining that I should be all set and I’d get a letter in a few days confirming that I, indeed, did have a life-changing event and qualified for a reduced monthly premium. I asked her how that happened and she said that once she’d typed in the info I gave her, the formula came back at the reduced rate. So I asked, so you mean all my other interactions with people from Social Security never got entered correctly in my file, nor did the letter confirming my retirement get in the file, thus I was told I didn’t qualify, was denied my appeal, etc. etc. She looked at me nodding. She said sometimes the computer system is slow. Ok.
Resolved! Well, once I get the letter it will be resolved and I’ll accept resolution once I see it in writing.
Meantime, I learned a couple of things: be persistent, go in and talk to a real human being and also be sure I get someone as efficient and professional as the woman I met with.
On the way out I said, you never told me your name. She hesitated only a second and said, “Mrs. Brown." I figure maybe she's making that up so I can't find her again but then she adds, "that’s the first time I got it right,” she said, “I just got married a couple of weeks ago and I’m not used to saying it yet.”
So, in my book, Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter, in law.