I filed for Social Security benefits at the end of January … did it online. I couldn’t believe how easy the process was. There were about a half dozen pages of questions I had to answer. Strike that – there were maybe 4 pages of questions I had to answer and then a couple of pages of security stuff I had to set up, including my banking information so that the payments are automatically deposited.
Once finished, I was given an access code and received an email confirmation of the application. The email said that I could log back on after 5 business days and check the status of the application to see if it had been approved. My first thought was, “Approved? What does that mean? I mean, I’ll be 62 in April, I had earnings … and you guys were the ones who sent me the statement saying that if I retired at 62, I’d get “x” amount of benefits! ‘Well, Mr. Cox, we’re looking at your application and I think we’re going to need you to prove that you worked at Fruehauf Corporation back in 1974 in order to verify that portion of your benefits.’ Seriously?”
But aside from the typical angst I experienced … hell, I worry about my debit card getting shredded when I put it into an ATM machine … I thought everything went pretty well. By the way, if I were not having my ashes scattered at sea, my tombstone would probably be inscribed with the following:
1953 – 2020
“Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean
that people aren’t really out to get you!”
So I checked “File for Social Security Benefits” off my to-do list and went on about my business.
About a week and half later, I logged back into the Social Security website, entered my access number and was all set to see that everything had been processed and approved. Instead, the following message was displayed:
A final determination on your benefits application has not been reached. Please check back again. If you have any questions, call “xxx-xxx-xxxx”
Okay … well, it did say in the original email that it might take up to two weeks. I just jumped the gun, I thought, and decided to give it another week.
Another week later, I go through the process again. Same message. I do it again a week after that. Same message again. At this point, my anxiety and paranoia are at Defcon 1, so I called the number they supplied, because I sure as shit had questions at this point!
I called, and after enduring 42 minutes of the worst on-hold music ever … interrupted every couple of minutes by an automated voice telling me how important I was to them … a nice guy with a southern accent came on:
Mr. Smith: Hello, this is customer service agent Smith, employee ID #148X29C42-OMAHA-OMAHA-Blue61-HIKE. How may I help you today?
Me: I filed for social security benefits online back at the end of January. I’ve logged in a few times since then to check status and it’s still saying that a determination has not been reached.
Mr. Smith: Yeah, well, that really doesn’t work.
Me: Excuse me?
Mr. Smith: Yeah, well, you fill it out, but it really doesn’t go anywhere. Well, sometimes it do and sometimes it don’t!
Me: Sometimes it do?
Mr. Smith: And sometimes it don’t. It’s there for you to file, but I wouldn’t rely on it too much.
Me: Okay then. So if I had filled out the application and not checked back, assuming everything was going okay …
Mr. Smith: Well, now, that wouldn’t have been too smart of you, would it? That’s why we tell people that you can start the application process 90 days before you turn 62, so that we can still get you set up in time!
Me: So then what do I do now?
Mr. Smith: I think it’s best that I just set you up for a phone call. Someone will call you back and fill out your application with you over the phone. I have 10:00 on March 2nd as the next available date. Would you like a phone call? (Actually, it was more like “would you lahk a pho-own cawl?” )
Me: Well, yeah – I guess so … but I’m having a bit of trouble processing the whole “sometimes it do and sometimes it don’t” concept. (I think bad news should always be delivered by someone with a southern accent – for some reason, it’s just hard to want to reach through the phone and rip someone’s tonsils out when they’re speaking with a drawl!)
Mr. Smith: Well, you know, it is the government. Things don’t always work right. But I’m sure someone’s trying to fix it, Mr. Cox. Anyhow, you’re all set for your phone call. You’ll get a confirmation letter in the mail.
Me: Are you sure?
All through the phone call, I halfway expected the guy to break out with an Eddie Murphy laugh and exclaim, “No man, I’se just fuckin’ wichya. You’re cool – we gots the application all set up and you’re ready to go!” But that didn’t happen.
It was just incomprehensible to me that they’d have created this really well-thought out website application … one that was easy to use, had help links that actually helped and gave you a confirmation at the end, only to have it go out into the void? Amazing!
Anyhow, I got the letter confirming the call … and this morning, the phone rang a couple of minutes before 10:00am. The guy told me who he was, asked me to confirm a couple of basic things and then asked me to wait a moment so he could start the process on his end. At that point, I told him that I had already started to process online, and asked if there was any way he could possibly access that information. He hesitated for a moment and said, “Yeah, I’m looking at all your stuff. I really don’t have to do anything – you’re all set up and ready to go!”
I told him about everything that had transpired beforehand, including the original call I made into Social Security. He said,” I don’t know what that other guy was talking about. Your information is here, the application has been approved and you’re ready to go!”
Man, I can’t wait to apply for Medicare in a few years. Should be a hoot!