An Object Lesson in Incompetence at the Social Security Administration

By | October 10, 2005

Before I had a blog, I wrote this article about the Social Security Administration losing my newborn daughter’s social security card, refusing to send a new one, and refusing to fix the bug in their computer systems which caused the card to be lost. Read the article there, then comment here if you wish!

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19 thoughts on “An Object Lesson in Incompetence at the Social Security Administration

  1. Elizabeth

    I have no idea what to do. Recently got married. Went to the office April 8th and waited the 14 days. No card and was told to go back and resubmit. Went back April 26th and now it’s May 30th I went to the post office and no issues ( apparently ). Like I’m at a lost for words how terrible this system is. I’m in the military and can’t just leave work for hours to go to the office again….

    Reply
  2. FedUpToo

    Our Virginia SSA is truly inept too.

    My father-in-law died in November, leaving his disabled daughter in our care. She received SSA benefits through him as her Legal Guardian. After weeks of paperwork, meetings and interviews with state authorities and SSA, all required paperwork to become her legal guardian was finally finished. All-in-all it took over two months of footwork and phone calls to complete the process.

    Last week we get a notice from SSA telling us how sorry [we are] to hear about the loss of my disabled sister-in-law in February! What?!

    A week later we are notified by the SSA to return her benefit check;. Also, SSA stopped Medicare aid for her medication.

    The incompetency is unbelievable’. Now we have 30 days to return her check, or 90 days to contest it, according to our latest notification. We immediately made phone calls. Set up new appointments with the local SSA office to ‘prove’ my sister-in-law was in fact alive!

    In reality, this will end up costing me MORE in lost time, gasoline and frustration to fix. A gargantuan mistake THEY made.

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  3. Denis

    << …. cont
    In my opinion the Social Security services seriously need improvements. This situation is akin to our bailout of the banks of last year. They borrowed our money at >

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  4. Denis

    Wow… I thought I was alone in this situation. My case seems insignificant compared to all you have gone thru. JIK my hats off to you! I agree with what you are doing and it gives me hope to hear that others have the ethics and courage to fight and try and make things better. Here is a copy and paste of what I just sent to my representative. I will also send a similiar version to Senator Boxer and Senator and Feinstein.

    <<
    January 8th, 2010

    Representative Jackie Speier:

    First let me begin by wishing you health, happiness and prosperity in 2010.

    Jackie, I am writing you due to extreme frustrations with the Social Security Office and possibly also due to the Homeland Security Dept. Let me explain:

    I recently petitioned for my fiancé from China to join me here in the US. I had taught Math in China for 3 years and had met while I was there. The process of bringing her here as my fiancé was extremely lengthy and involved. I generated over 200 files and documents and proof of documents and finances and utility payments and bank account statements going back 2 years and tax filings and W2s and W4s and letters of support and degrees and passport copies and numerous other forms that are required etc etc etc … I think I chopped down 2 trees to achieve this and all this to be able to have her fiancé visa approved. When she finally had the interview at the US consulate in Guangzhou, it lasted a whole 1 minute and they only wanted to see 2 pages out of the 100's of pages we put together and were told were needed!!! What a waste of time and resources!

    Now thank God she is here and we married on Dec 16th (thank you). She recently applied for an SSN # on Dec 2nd at the San Mateo Claremont office. We were told it would be approx 2 to 3 weeks. Well we are now going onto our 5th week and still no social security number. As stated we married on Dec 16th and Xialing was added to my 2010 dental, vision and PPO plans as my wife. Today when I called my dental insurer to confirm that my wife had been added to my plan, as per my completed forms, I was told no! I was told she could not be due to the fact that she had not yet provided an SSN number.

    So joy, this week I spent 2 hours on the phone (2 calls) with the SSN office main 800 number 800-772-1213. Let me tell you I have just wasted 2 hours and am extremely frustrated. The recordings they have will not let you go on unless you make selections and once you make a selection they force you to listen to information that does not deal with the issue I was calling for. You cannot bypass the recording and end up wasting close to 6 minutes until finally you are routed to an agent, but don’t get your hopes up yet, the wait can easily tag on another 15-20 minutes and finally only to learn that there is nothing they can do as it appears that the Homeland Security Dept must now also review the SSN allocation process. I was nonetheless given the tel # to the Claremont Street of the San Mateo office (which by the way is NOT published on the main ss.gov website) only to tell me that they cannot handle my call and then my call automatically gets routed back to the main 800 number – Is there no end to this insanity and time wasting!

    So bottom line my wife is in need of dental and medical appointments and I am told cannot benefit from these (even though we married last Dec and I completed my forms asking for her to be added to my 2010 dental, vision and PPO) all because the SSA office cannot get her an SSN number in the promised time of 2/3 weeks.

    I have worked in the area if biotech here in the USA since 1995, paid all my taxes in full and on time (contrary to many others in the government and agencies), contributed heavily to medicare and the SS funds and have never once asked for unemployment insurance only to end up having my own government office drag their feet and waste my precious time (which by now easily tops 3 hours this week alone) thereby preventing my wife from getting required dental services. In my opinion the Social Security services seriously need improvements. This situation is akin to our bailout of the banks of last year. They borrowed our money at >

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  5. Harry Guenther

    SSA is withholding $1,041.00 from my October benefit which is rightfully mine. They claim I exceeded the earnings limit in 2008 by $2,082.00. I retired from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on December 31, 2007. I didn’t even work in 2008. The money I received was for the last few days I worked in 2007 plus payment for my unused Federal annual leave. Twice I have had GSA send an SS Form 131 saying the the money paid in 2008 was earned in 2007. The first was sent by mail to my local SSA Office at 337 Hospital Drive, Glen Burnie, MD. at he end of August. The second was faxed to a contact representative, Morgan J. Tabb on October 13, 2009. I called Mr. Tabb on Fiday October 23 to see if he had received the form. Of course he was not available. I left a message asking him to call me. Didi he call? Of course not! I called the SSA toll free number last Friday. They sent an email and a left a phone message with my local SSA office asking them to call me. Guess what? No Call! I’ve now put this in the hands of my U.S. Senator. I learned from working in retirement and insurance that the only way to get action is to light a fire under their collective butts. If you’re having problems, get your congressmen involved.

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  6. Ronda Smith

    Reading your article on your experiences with the SSA has brought up some very angry feelings that I have based on my own terrible experience with this stupid agency. It gave me so much grief that I feel my chest constricting right now, thinking about the way they treated me. I can’t get into too much detail because it’ll just ruin my day, but basically here is the story. In Nov. 2001 I got married. In January of 2002 I changed my last name from Mangrum to Smith. I applied for and received a new card, with the correct spelling of my name. Then about 6 months later I got my SS statement, you know they sent those out every year stating your earnings or whatever. Well, on this statement they had misspelled Smith. It was spelled SMTIH. So I called and told them. I said I have a card with the correct spelling, why is it wrong on my statement? The lady I spoke to me told me that it appeared that in January I applied twice, the first time with the correct spelling, then 3 days later I applied again with the misspelling. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I absolutely did not do this. I went round and round with these idiots and assholes so many times. One woman I spoke to even called me a bitch, because I was adamant that they misspelled my name and it was their fault, they needed to fix it. They of course wanted me to reapply. I held out for 5 years before I broke down and wasted 3 hours of my life and vacation time from work to go get this fixed. When I finally was standing in front of a real person, I showed her my card, with the correct spelling. But I couldn’t get her to just change the spelling in their database. She had to reissue me a new card, and she took my original card, even though it was spelled correctly and I didn’t actually need a new card, I just need it corrected in their database. She was at least nice and she was just doing her job, but it was like she was told to take the correct card and destroy the evidence of their mistake. I didn’t want to give it up but it was the only way they would correct the misspelling. This whole experience made me regret changing my last name, and of course now I hate the SSA. And I’ve only told you a fraction of the hell they put me through. Sorry for the cursing. It just gets me worked up.

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  7. EDWARD PERKOWSKI

    AFTER 9 YEARS OF RECEIVING BENEFITS AFTER BREAKING MY BACK SS SENT ME A LETTER SAYING I OWED THEM 103 THOUSAND DOLLARS BECAUSE OF MY WC DISABILITY. FROM DAY 1 I GOT THE SAME WC DIS. AND THEY FIGURED IT INTO MY SS PAYMENT FROM THE BEGINNING THEN AGAIN FOR MY FAMILY 1 YEAR LATER. THEY ALSO DID UPDATES 2 TIMES OVER THE 9 YEARS. ARE THESE PEOPLE IDIOTS OR WHAT? I CANT EVEN GET TO THEM FOR 2 MONTHS WHEN THEY MADE AN APPOINTMENT. WITH NO WARNING THEY CUT MY SS PAYMENT 1100 DOLLARS. THEY DONT EVEN KNOW HOW TO DO THE MATH ALLOWING 80% OF YOUR CURRENT EARNINGS ALLOWED. AT ONE APPOINTMENT WITH THEM A EMPLOYEE ASKED WHY I NEEDED SO MUCH MONEY. I HAVE 7 KIDS AN AM NOW ON A MISSION. GOD HELP THIS COUNTRY . I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES WOULDNT GIVE YOU THEIR NAME OR SIGN ANYTHING THEY DID, ITS BECAUSE THERE TO DUMB.

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  8. Billy

    It looks like they finally fixed this issue. I can’t believe it took then almost 8 months to roll in their software fix.
    They have encouraged identity theft. I bet that if there is statistics about identity theft they will high during this period.
    What makes people mad is the lack of accountability. They know they screwed up but they still make you go through millions hurdles.

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  9. B Sisco

    Unimaginable problems w/Social Securitysince April 2008 until a week ago when a call said everything was put back in order and sent me a “new”
    social security card”, which matched the one I’d had for many years,
    until April, when I received one that didn’t match. Nothing but
    months of sitting on the phone and in the office to social security.

    Now that it’s supposedly settled, they’ve gone after my daughter, a
    mentally disabled person, unable to work a real job, although her
    identity was stolen and they now claim she’s earning money every
    month. More lies!

    I was told the only way to go after social security is to write your
    senator- that would be either Sen. Barbara Boxer or Sen. Diane Feinstein,
    since Soc.Sec. is a government agency. That’s what I’m doing now.

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  10. Andrew

    I totally agree with bob roberts above. I USED to work for SSA (thank God I got out of there), and I would like to again reiterate that it is not the employees that cause the problems, it’s Management that is the problem. Management is completely incompetent, and they are NOT held accountable for their actions by anyone (if they were, you wouldn’t have went through what you went through). Management is truly a disgusting breed of animal at SSA; they are worse than scum. In fact, Management exploits workers at SSA in the worst possible way. There is no morale, and employees hate their jobs because they make their lives miserable. I know that SSA will never give you an apology for what you went through, so on behalf of this Fascist agency, I apologize.

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  11. bob roberts

    I work for SSA and I can tell you that the incompetence goes alot deeper than just that, in part because management at SSA are idiots and are so out of touch with reality, it’s pathetic. Alot of unqualified people in jobs that they have no business being in. Mainly management has made a mess of the whole system, you can’t blame the workers, they are just doing what they are told to do, it’s the absolute morons at the top who are to blame. God help us all !!!

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  12. jik Post author

    Just got this via email:

    I have a 2.5 year old and went through the nightmare of not receiving her SS Card also. I called SS after 2 months and was not given any kind of answer as to why I had not received her card; they said the hospital must not have sent in her application. I am a single mom not receiving child support and I had to take time off of work, go down to the hospital where I was assured her application was sent in and had to obtain my daughters medical records in order to bring them to the SS office to get her card. The hospital had spelled her name wrong on her records so after sitting at the SS office for 5hrs and 40min I was turned away with no SS card. I was extremely frustrated so I called SS back and advised them I was assured by the hospital that her application was submitted but, I still could not get any answers as to why I never received my daughters SS card. After having the hospital correct her name I attempted to go back to the SS office but after arriving and asking how long the wait was (approx 4-6hrs) I walked right out of their with no SS card to this day.

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  13. jik Post author

    The problem has spread. *sigh*

    Some time between March 18 and May 18, Chase silently changed the ZIP code in the billing address for our Chase credit card from 02135 to 02109. Our city was listed as “Boston” rather than “Brighton” in their database (I don’t know why, but it’s been that way forever), and apparently they ran our address through a new software package or process which has the same bug that the SSA software has.

    Two monthly statements failed to arrive before I realized what was going on. Fortunately, I didn’t miss any payments, because I have an automated job which checks for late payments and alerts me about them. In addition, several on-line purchases were declined because of the ZIP code mismatch (I was specifying 02135, the credit card company had 02109).

    I just sent them a letter telling them that their software is buggy. I don’t have much hope that the letter will ever reach anyone who might be able to understand and do something about it, let alone that they will do something about it.

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  14. Tyler

    You put your actual address into your comment, so your privacy has been foregone (see #### Xxxxx St. in your “a)” comment above).

    I’m an undergraduate senior at UNT working towards a BS in computer science, and currently work as in intern in the QA department of a commercial bank, and I just read your entire article from start to finish. I was referred to it from Risks Digest Vol. 24, Issue 1.

    I have to say, you’re after my own heart. Don’t give up. Make them fix it. I know you will. Keep fighting the fight, jik.

    Reply
  15. jik Post author

    Anybody who wants to can get my address from any on-line directory, so it’s not like I was giving anything away by posting it in a comment. Having said that, I was trying to make it at least one extra step, so thanks for the pointer; I’ve removed my address from the previous comment

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  16. jik Post author

    (a) Social Security cards can only be delivered to the named addressee. There’s no one with my daughter’s name at our address in the other ZIP code, so the card was returned to the Social Security Administration by the Postal Service, and the Social Security Administration shreds all returned cards.

    (b) Street name changes, at least in Boston, require the approval of the majority of the residents on the street, and even with such approval, loud residents can block a change. There’s no way I could convince enough people to support the change. Heck, even I’m not convinced it would be worth the hassle.

    Also, as I’m sure you realize, solving the problem for me in particular doesn’t change the fact that it will continue to impact other people until the SSA fixes their buggy software.

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  17. Lisa

    Look… you’re right. They’re wrong. They’re idiots. And I admire and respect you for banging away at them like this. The world needs people who will tilt at windmills.

    What I don’t entirely understand is this: You know where the card went. You know this is an issue. So…

    (a) Why haven’t you contacted the people at the address the card went to? A simple phone call ought to get you the card. You can keep banging away at the SSA, but at least you’d have the card in the meantime.

    (b) The address thing with Boston and Brighton is insane. I would have thought that you’d have long since tried to get Brighton to either change the name of your street, even if it’s just replacing a Road with a Drive or an Avenue with a Lane, or change the numbers. It’s not as though street numbers have any rhyme or reason in Boston anyway.

    But tilt away. There aren’t enough of us who care about such things.

    Reply

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