My spouse has slightly plaque hanging on the wall of her artwork studio. She’s a fiber artist who makes quilted landscapes and one thing referred to as “temari,” that are ornamental Japanese thread balls. She sells her wares in a neighborhood artwork gallery. If you wish to see her work, simply go to www.fiberartsbybecky.com. Anyway, that plaque, which she obtained after we each retired in 2005, says: “Assist me! My husband retired and he doesn’t have a passion!”
I used to be considering of that plaque once I opened my electronic mail inbox immediately. There have been scores of letters from readers of my column. I in all probability get lots of of emails each week from throughout the nation. For probably the most half, I’m not complaining – and my spouse is rejoicing. Answering these emails has change into my passion. It retains me out of her hair and out of … effectively, by no means thoughts. However you get my drift. My spouse can work on her little crafts in peace upstairs whereas I work on my “passion” downstairs. (That’s a part of the key to a 47-year marriage!)
You’ll notice I mentioned I’m not complaining “for probably the most half.” I like serving to folks perceive Social Security’s guidelines and laws. I like answering their common questions on this system. However frankly, I’m perplexed when folks come to me with questions or points that I merely can’t assist them with.
For instance, one of many emails I obtained immediately went like this: “I get a small Social Security examine and my husband’s profit is way bigger. How do I discover out if I can get any additional advantages on his file?” Effectively, the plain reply (apparent to me anyway) is to contact the Social Security Administration. Merely name them at their toll-free quantity, 800-772-1213.
One other electronic mail mentioned: “I’m about to show 62 and I need to file for my Social Security. Are you able to assist me with this?” Effectively, no I can’t. As soon as once more, you’ve obtained to name SSA at 800-772-1213. Or higher but, file on-line at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Nonetheless different readers ship me LONG emails that, due to the excessive quantity of mail I get, I merely do not need time to decipher. These lengthy emails often take two kinds.
One sort comes from readers who’re in search of monetary recommendation. They supply me with their complete work historical past, marital historical past, earnings historical past and a partner’s work and earnings historical past. They incessantly inform me about all their belongings and liabilities. They ask me to assist them make retirement plans and inform them when they need to file for Social Security advantages.
Whereas I do respect their thoroughness, I actually solely have time to rapidly scan their electronic mail, and I virtually all the time inform them: “I’m not a monetary planner. I’m simply an outdated retired Social Security man. As such, all I can do is clarify Social Security guidelines. And I simply can’t try this in a fast electronic mail. So I strongly suggest you spend 10 bucks and get my little Social Security guidebook referred to as Social Security – Easy and Sensible (www.creators.com/books). One of many chapters in that e book explains when and the way to file for Social Security. I feel it’ll reply all of your questions.”
The opposite form of lengthy electronic mail I get from readers are the sort which can be ranting and raving about some perceived injustice with the Social Security system. (I obtained one this week that went on for 3 pages!) There actually is nothing I can do to assist these folks different than simply give them an opportunity to vent!
Nonetheless different readers ship me emails wherein they’re complaining about service they obtained, or that they’re attempting to get, from the Social Security Administration. Typically they inform me they will’t get by way of to SSA’s toll-free service line (800-772-1213). Or they talked to somebody at SSA and didn’t like the reply they obtained. Or they’re attempting to resolve some drawback with their advantages, and so they suppose the decision is taking too lengthy. They often ask me to intervene or “do one thing” to resolve their drawback.
However frankly, there’s nothing I can do in these conditions. With respect to getting assist on the 800 quantity, all I can counsel is endurance. You may need to attend on maintain some time, however somebody will ultimately reply the cellphone. With respect to intervening of their case, these of us ought to know that I’ve been retired from the company for 16 years now and I’ve completely no clout with anybody there. I merely can’t decide up the cellphone, name some official at SSA, and say, “Repair this man’s drawback now!” What I often do is counsel they ask to talk to a supervisor or supervisor at their native Social Security workplace.
Talking of coping with somebody on the native workplace, I all the time suggest you try this. Some folks suppose they’re being good by “going to the highest” – by attempting to cope with somebody at one in all SSA’s regional workplaces and even at their headquarters’ complicated in Baltimore. That could be a massive waste of time. You’re all the time higher off coping with native workers.
As an example what I imply, let me share this with you. I labored for a few years at SSA’s headquarters exterior of Baltimore. There have been about 10,000 folks working there. Every of these of us had some form of administrative job to do. They weren’t there to assist particular person Social Security recipients. (Once more, that’s what native Social Security workplaces are for.) Nonetheless, day-after-day, folks would stroll into the primary headquarters’ constructing – a few of them having traveled throughout the nation to take action – and demand to talk to “somebody on the high about my drawback.”
These of us had been ushered into slightly workplace the place I assume they thought they had been speaking to a headquarters’ massive shot. In fact, this workplace was staffed by representatives from the Randallstown, Maryland, Social Security workplace – the closest subject workplace to SSA headquarters. If that Randallstown rep couldn’t deal with the scenario, the case was all the time referred again to the native workplace within the city the place the customer lived – the place the individual ought to have gone to within the first place to deal with the issue. (I understand that issues are completely different in the interim with many workplaces partially closed as a result of COVID-19. So, take into account this long-term recommendation when the world will get again to regular.)
Or in case you merely can’t get assist from the workers or administration of your native workplace, then I counsel you contact your native congressional consultant. They all the time have somebody on workers who handles Social Security points.
So, to sum up, come to me in case you’ve obtained common questions on Social Security or in case you can briefly current your personal private challenge. (As I mentioned, it actually would assist in case you learn my e book first.) However in case you’ve obtained enterprise with SSA, you’re going to must name them at 800-772-1213 or go surfing at www.socialsecurity.gov. And in case you have an issue, ask to talk to a supervisor, or contact your native member of Congress.