The G-Man who never was -- and still isn't

Wednesday - 4/30/2014, 2:00am EDT

For years, the largest group of people in this country who were not automatically covered by Social Security were people who worked for the Social Security Administration. And the IRS, Defense Department, OPM, Interior and other federal agencies. Many state and local governments had their own (generally better) defined-benefit programs outside of Social Security.

(Many of those local and state governments are now having problems paying those pensions.)

Until the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) was introduced in the 1980s, most federal workers didn't pay into or get Social Security unless they had covered private-sector jobs before, during or after they left government. Workers at Social Security offices were skilled in explaining eligibility, the program and its benefits to people. But the feds themselves weren't automatically in it like most other workers.

Now a majority of federal workers (those under the FERS and CSRS- Offset systems) are part of Social Security. That's supposed to be a good thing. But not so much for one fed who has had a world of problems since he started the Social Security application process. Among other things, he finds out he's not really considered an American — despite all this years with the government.

We asked SSA to comment. Meantime, here's his tale of woe:

Well, it happened. Apparently there is a time limit to get your documents into the Social Security Administration. And their computers don't talk to each other all that well. (Try calling the 800 number to make an appointment in Hagerstown, and once you get a person, you will find you need to call the Hagerstown office — the 800 number doesn't connect to the computer doing the scheduling for Hagerstown.)

I just received a letter from the SSA dated April 2014. That was a Sunday. I guess the computers were working over the weekend cranking out form letters. The letter came from Jamaica, New York, which might have been where I got my Social Security card. Back then, in New York City, there were many SSA offices: It was just a matter of which was most convenient, and I can't remember if it was me or my buddy who got their card in Jamaica.

"You do not qualify for retirement benefits because you have not proven that you are a United States citizen or an alien who was lawfully admitted for permanent residence. You also need to prove your age." It's interesting that they are asking to see the same birth certificate that I showed them some 51 years ago, and which I carried in my back pocket when we biked up to the Social Security office. I don't think they asked for my "Green Card" back then. As far as I remember they were all locked up until we received citizenship papers.

A few weeks ago, I got a call while picking up my car from the shop on the way to work. It was a nice lady from Social Security, but who seemed to become harried by my case. First she asked if I had my birth certificate and citizenship papers so I could bring them to the SSA office in Fairfax County. I guess they assign an office based on geographical areas, even though another office might be actually closer to where you live (There are at least 2 closer). The Fairfax office was about 60 miles from where I was and "surprisingly" I did not have my birth certificate or my citizenship papers on me. (I've driven through that general area maybe a dozen time in my life but I can only remember setting foot there one time. It's much farther than the SSA office just down the street from where I work). I did tell the nice lady I had an appointment in the Rockville, Maryland office on a Monday in mid-April, the earliest one I could get, but she did not have a record of that, and she didn't know what to do since I entered my application so long ago online on March 10. Too bad there was no indication anywhere that there was a "time limit" to get the papers in and I guess the "automatic system" took over, so that I was denied benefits.

"Medicare is also denied for the same reason." That is interesting, as I did not apply for Medicare.

And finally, "Our records show that you were born in what was East Germany." I wonder where they got that idea? Perhaps my birth certificate? The one they need to see again? I was actually born in what was the "U. S. Zone of Occupation" at that time. I would guess that the big computer placed the little town where I was born, in East Germany, because it is not on any list of West German cities. If you Google it you can't find it. Not surprisingly since it was very small. My birth certificate is Number 3. It only had 71 homes (plus or minus) in 1959 when I visited. There were no street addresses in 1959. They only had house numbers, because there was only one street. And it was still a dirt road then, not even gravel. You can find it on a map if you know where to look. It was annexed/incorporated into a much larger municipal unit sometime in the past four decades, and when you really zoom in on an online map you can see the name on a "wide spot on the road".

I guess Social Security is not really geared up to handle people who want to retire while working and don't trust the mail or anyone else with their birth certificate and other documents; and/or were born in very small places overseas. And their computers don't talk to each other enough. — The Man Without (apparently) A Country!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

There are more plastic pink flamingoes in the United States than real ones. The kitschy lawn decorations made their first appearance in 1957.

(Source: Next Nature)


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