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The Epic Quest for Social Security

The Epic Quest for Social Security Featured

I reached the ripe old age of 68 this last week. Life’s been like Mr. Toad’s wild ride along the bumpy back roads of the early years to the smooth success of gliding along the inter- state highways and now en- joying the relaxation of cruise control. But signs along the way always provided a fairly clear path and traffic lights turned green at most opportunities.

Some folks along for the ride have slipstreamed right in be- hind and gone on to bright roads of their own. Some might even say I gave encouragement and insight making their map-reading skills even better.

I’ve been truly blessed to be involved with a business that acknowledges success, shares the spoils, allows personal growth and the chance to en- joy learning from others to hone skills and pass them on again.

It’s never been a nine-to-five existence and no jarring repetition has ever been endured except as a kid working the nightshift in a bread-making factory running the slicing and wrapping machines and luckily that was short-lived.

There’s only one thing better than all this – my family. I love them more every day and we are all great friends too.

I put off filing for Social Security at the age of 65 on the fortunate premise that I was not in desperate need of it and if I did postpone the payments, the sum would grow in later years. Now I’m told it behooves me to enroll in Medicare, Parts A and B, and to do that I should be on Social Security.

Since leaving formal, full time employment I’ve been a party to my wife’s company’s insurance program but they’re altering the parameters of their benefits and their costs (duh!). That’s fodder for another column, all of its own. But now I can get better and cheaper coverage, it turns out, by paying for a supplement to Part B. Still following? Good, it took me a while!

As of this writing, this is far from a done deal and at minimum will take two weeks to percolate through the system and could take longer should there be questions or queries.

I was told I could present myself at the Social Security Administration’s offices on the other side of Nashville or I could file online. I shuddered at the thought of going to their offices on the probability that

it would be akin to a visit to the DMV – only worse. No prizes for guessing that I took the on- line route. A phalanx of questions ensued but I was quite happy to be at home, coffee at the end of my elbow, in the comfort of the air conditioning and a ceiling fan lending the occasional waft of fresh air. That was until I got to the question of my citizenship papers – they had no record!

The Immigration and Naturalization Service does, The Department of Homeland Security does, the FBI and the TSA do, probably the NSA and the CIA too. Even the British authorities recognize me as an American Trusted Traveller while still being a subject of Her Majesty.

I dialed the help line and after a number of abortive at- tempts at raising a human being to the cause, a very helpful young lady from Auburn, Wash., told me I would have to present my citizenship certificate personally at the Social Security office. “While you’re at it, take along your birth certificate, Social Security Card, driver’s permit and a copy of your application so far,” she added helpfully.

I mined this portfolio of life’s literature from the lock box at  the bank and attended the SSA offices in high hopes.

I was greeted (if that’s the right word) by two desultory security guards at the screening station, virtually having to strip in front of the League of Nations already in attendance. I understand why, these days, but doing it so openly in front of some 150 people adds a lack of decorum to an already stressful visit.

Armed with a paperback I was starting to think that “War and Peace” would have been a more suitable reading companion for the duration.

I registered electronically and having no appointment (I didn’t know you could make one) the machine spat out a ticket with a number as long as the lottery but surprisingly I was called relatively quickly, after only 20 minutes to an adjacent window. I sat for another 20 minutes, in the company of a blank computer screen, for a clerk to come and make my acquaintance. The office and cubicles beyond the window with a hole in it were totally devoid of people.

Eventually a boyish young lady beset with tattoos asked me a few questions to get the session started. When she realized that I hadn’t completed the whole application she suggested that I rejoin the thronging masses outside to get an interview with someone else.

“You should apply for an appointment or you could be waiting for three hours,” she proffered somberly. I pointed out that her colleague in Washington (I didn’t mention Auburn) told me not to proceed until I’d presented the Naturalization Certificate and all. I smiled sweetly and begged her indulgence to proceed with the rest of the online application. In the process she observed that I should have shown the Certificate to the administration after the Naturalization proceedings back in 2005. I didn’t have to do that with any of the other agencies who all seemed to be acquainted with my new status in life.

In the end and after a fair amount of chasing my tail, she stuck with me to complete the details. It was now early afternoon and I made my way through the sea of humanity, which seemed to have swollen to twice the earlier number.

I’m sincerely hoping that my application requires no further personal visits but if so I’ll make an appointment, hopefully before the age of 69.

 

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Tony Moorby

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