Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We're from the Government and we're here to help

My wife Suzy died December 30 at age 44. She started working at age 16, so she had paid into Social Security for the better part of 28 years. By my conservative estimate, she contributed in excess of $85,000 to the system.

Upon receipt of her death certificate in late January, I called Social Security to report her passing. I was told I needed to make an appointment, and the first one available was for today, almost four weeks later.

So this morning, I left work in the middle of the day, carrying our marriage certificate, birth certificates, and the death certificate as instructed. I signed in with the armed guard at the door, promised that I carried no weapons or sharp objects upon my person and proceeded to waiting room. Upon arrival, I was told to wait until my name was called. I sat down dutifully in a large room full of chairs lined up facing two more armed security guards with 50 or so of my closest friends, must of whom were either sneezing or coughing. Or both.

At 11:45, fifteen minutes after my "scheduled appointment," my name was called. I went inside and sat down with my assigned government agent. There was no name tag on her desk, and she did not introduce herself. The first thing out of her mouth was that any falsehoods in my "testimony" would be punishable under penalty of perjury. Nice touch, that.

I displayed all my certified and sealed documents to prove that we were married and when and where we were born. I promised her that we had no children or legal guardians, and that, had she survived, Suzy would indeed have wanted to return to our home with me.

My assigned agent then printed a summary sheet and asked me to verify once again that the information I had given her was correct. It was. Upon completion of this ritual, she notified me that as a consequence of my marriage to a young lady that had paid over 85 grand into the exalted Social Security "trust fund," I was entitled to a one-time payment of the princely sum of $255, and by the way, she was sorry for my loss. "The check will arrive in 4 to 6 weeks," I was assured.

Only the government could take that much money out of someone's pocket, then pull you out of work, put you under the watch of armed guards, threaten you with prosecution, and proceed to return a lousy 250 bucks on your wife's "investment" in their program. That isn't enough to pay for the flowers at the funeral.

Oh, and did I mention that the office was open during the convenient Monday through Friday hours of 8:45 AM until 3:45 PM? Don't knock yourselves out too much down there at the SSA.


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