i’ve got something on my mind

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i don’t have pictures today—i was too busy with work and classes to take any. and i dunno if i am going to write about knitting at all today because i have something on my mind.

david’s dad, Big Dave (he is SO not big—he’s a rail!), has been ill for several months. he is around
70 years old, and has been a fairly heavy smoker all his life, so this is not surprising. we first became aware of it when he entered the hospital a couple of months back with pain in his arm. it took quite a while for the situation to be diagnosed and he underwent surgery. we don’t know exactly what was diagnosed or how ill he is, because he isn’t telling anyone (we think it must be cancer, but we really don’t know). now he is home and recuperating.

however, he has had to retire due to this illness; he has worked in a hardware store in his small town on long island for many, MANY years, walking back and forth several miles each day, to his job.
he, of course, did not receive benefits at his job—it was a small business and family-run—it was not the type of job to offer health benefits. he did, however, pay taxes and social security from his salary.

so, he was forced to retired because of his health, and applied for social security because the hospital social worker wanted to get him on medicare in order to have his bills paid. only guess what?

Big Dave is having a devil of a time getting approved.
well, he was born at home. he was born at home in south carolina during a time when most “non-white” people were barred from hospitals. therefore, his birth was never recorded and he does not have a birth certificate. he was also born during the depression, which compounded the difficulties of having a hospital birth with all the official paperwork. he HAS a social security number. his birth certificate is not missing—it just never existed.

though he attended school as a child for a few years, SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES as a young man, and fathered three sons (including one who is 40 now), because he cannot proved the exact date of his birth (and therefore his age), he is being denied.

i find it extremely disturbing that someone can enter into service and hold an army record without a birth certificate, but suddenly be “off the grid” as far as the federal government is concerned, when it is their turn to give back. i mean, he is NOT asking for a handout—he is asking for what he invested in, both in service AND in cash, through his lifetime contributions to social security.

there are a number of government records in which Big Dave’s age was recorded, and apparently his word on it has always been perfectly acceptable when he was the one paying out. he HAS a social security number. his birth certificate is not missing—it just never existed.

surely he is not the first, or only person from his generation to have been born at home, unrecorded by city hall. i know my grandmother had her first child at home; it was common practice then. after all, many people were considered “non-white” in the 20s and 30s, and not admitted to hospitals on that basis. or, they were just too poor to pay a hospital for one of life’s most natural occurances—childbirth.

is it really possible that no system was put in place to deal with this situation as people born early in the century began to apply for social security in old age? that just seems too far-fetched to even consider.

now the social security administration is legendary in their wish to put applicants through the ringer, especially difficult cases. i know for a fact that lots of people are denied certain types benefits several times before they finally are approved—and that persistence is key when dealing with them. i imagine that difficult cases which might require some research will be annoying. and certainly there is a fear among government agencies of what they consider to be freeloaders.

but c’mon—the guy is 70 and still working up til a couple of months ago. and i haven’t heard of rampant abuse by people claiming to be lots older than they really are, have you? the guy is not underage by any stretch of the imagination.

so, what’s up with all this? has anyone else had to deal with this kind of thing and come up with a brilliant way to light a fire under the SSA, or otherwise beat them at their own game?
if you have, please pass it on to me!

back to knit chat tomorrow—i promise!

36 thoughts on “i’ve got something on my mind

  1. No insights to offer but lots of sympathy and total incomprehension at how they can deny him after accepting his word all along! I hope you’re able to find a good resolution for him.

  2. I wish I had some advice for you but all I can do is share in your indignation. It’s appalling that our government has nothing set up to deal with this problem. Especially, as you said, when it is so willing to accept payment. There must be a lot of people without birth certificates who are now eligible for Medicare and other services their taxes have paid into. The Great Depression made “luxuries” like hospital births and filing paperwork much more difficult for many people. It irritates me that it seems as though our government is unwilling to help those who need and deserve it most.

    I had no idea hospitals used to refuse care to “nonwhites.” How horrible!

    The only thing I know that can help speed things up is hiring a lawyer who specializes in Social Security and disability benefits. Some charge you only if they win your case (but I suspect it’s harder to get them to accept the case!).

    Good luck. I share your indignation! You vent all you want. 🙂

  3. It’s apalling Anne. Personally I believe that any civilised country should have the capacity and intentions to care for its own. Where there’s a need it must be met. What a worry, at a time when he least needs it. Do update us on how things progress. Will be thinking of you all.

  4. Apalling is right! Reflects one of the huge drawbacks of a bureaucracy. The inability to share records between depts. Obviously, the military had no trouble with him joining when he did. I’m with Jennifer, the best thing would be to hire a lawyer, but there you are going through money that he doesn’t have. What about church records? Many times births/deaths were recorded in a church, especially in the south. We know there is a paper trail of his existence, the problem truly becomes getting the bureaucracy off its collective butt to track the stuff down. What about paperwork that you can access as a family? Discharge papers from the military. Records from SSA itself, that they send out periodically that show the estimated date of retirement, estimated benefit, how long he’s been contributing, etc. Oh, I just thought, my parents have gone through an agency–Agency on Aging–to help them make decisions regarding medicare coverage etc, as my father has Alzheimers or what has been diagnosed as that. They even scheduled him for further medical testing. What about contacting an agency such as that–all the time they spent with my folks was FREE. And make noise, lots of it, because we know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. Hard enough dealing with a loved one in declining health, but even worse when there is an additional burden such as this.

  5. OK, here’s the deal. I used to work for SSA as a claims rep. Granted, it was over 25 years ago, but still, this should not be happening. SSA used to go get proof of age for those who could not furnish it. We used Census records, school records, church records, military records, lots of different things. Also, some states have what are called delayed birth certificates, in other words, birth records that were made long after the birth actually took place. These were also valid as long as there was no discrepancy with other records. Whoever is handling your father-in-law’s file is not doing their job properly. They should be getting proof for him. He needs to appeal his case, and I would also write to his Congressman and Senator. Like Jenny Raye says, make LOTS of noise, although you should not have to.

  6. I am, as the others, appalled, but sadly not surprised. Please encourage him in his persistence. I always think of “Shawshank Redemption” and the fact that Andy wrote a letter every week to the state asking for money for a library in the jail till they finally got so sick of hearing from him that they gave him books AND money.

    There must be somewhere that his approximate DOB has been recorded. I think if you can help him, or as Jenny Raye said above, find an agency that can help, collect all the paperwork that supports his case, and link him up with an advocate who will do most of the work since he is not well, that would be your best bet.

    He’s not eligible for Medicaid at his age, is he?

  7. Annie,
    I have a dear friend who also went through a similar ordeal, and as soon as I hear from her, I’ll send the information. And I SO agree with Sallie!

  8. Hi Anne,

    I share your outrage. It seems as if these folks have never encountered this type of situation before.

    I don’t know the exact mechanism, but I know my grandmother (and her seven siblings, who were all quite a bit older than Dave’s father) had a delayed birth certificate from Georgia. It was based on her elementary school records. They assumed she was around 5 or 6 when she started school.

    The social worker at the hospital should be able to get a handle on how the process works for applying for a delayed birth certificate (possibly by contacting the South Carolina state records office) -this should not be a new situation to them.

  9. I have no experience of this kind though of dealing with allowance related institutions. Ten years ago when I was studying I had to do with people who where handing out student loans. I knew I was entitled to those but happened to be assigned to a lady with no heart (and brain). She refused me the loan, Until I sent a detailed 8 pages long document with all the facts written down to her, AND to some other people at her department. Suddenly I was allowed all the loans that I knew was rightly entitled to! My lesson from this is: Never give up. Talk and involve other people at the same department. If that does not give any result. Talk to their boss. And if necessary, to the bosses boss. If that doesn’t help. I a similar case as the one you describe, I would probably go to the media!! By the way, try to find other people in the same situation as Mr Dave and family on the net?! I really wish my warmest and best of luck to him!

  10. No experience… but good luck. I think you have gotten good advice, make phone calls early and often. We had good luck with calling our senator’s office for something similar!

  11. Believe me I know how frustrating these things can be. I’m positive it can be straightened out. Generally when dealing with the government the problem is finding out exactly who can help you. Once you get to the correct people, it’s not so bad. Cheer up! These are good people just like you!

  12. Sorry to hear of your trouble Anne. I think you just got a loser SSA rep. Time to move up the food chain to the next guy until you get someone who has a clue or two.

  13. Be persistent, calm, friendly yet forceful. Employee every method available – emails, letters, phone, newsmedia. Be sure you (or whoever is handling his case) makes duplicates of everything, one for him, one for self, one for caseworker and send off copies to all the pertinent people involved. Also record time of phone calls and person talked to. It’s a pain but this way you are compiling a paper trail which is so helpful if you do need to take legal action.

    As others have mentioned finding one key advocate can break open a stubborn door.

    I wish you the best!

  14. Sorry, I also have no advice. NPR did a story on people like your father-in-law, although I think the story was on new regulations on Medicare and someone (the ACLU?) suing the government over the new documentation rules. NPR talked to case workers who related stories of elderly people they worked with who didn’t have papers for similar reasons to Dave; one of them was born at home, another was born in a town whose city records were destroyed in a natural disaster.

    I think this is the article:

    Sorry it’s not a help to you, it’s just another story related to this problem in general!

  15. This is appalling, but I have to say I’m not terribly surprised (unfortunately). I hope it is soon resolved and your dear FIL can begin receiving the benefits he is entitled to. Good luck!

  16. Anne,
    Please also check with the Veterans Administration (VA). If he was in the army he is entitled to his veterans benefits and they may have some experience with this situation as well.
    (a blogless reader).

  17. You know, I just wanted to post this here since I feel it is the most logical spot. I read Anne’s post and immediately wanted to rush to her aide…I know, it get annoying having me around but my hearts in the right spot *grin* anyways, I sat and clicked on the comments and I was totally amazed at how many people were not only offering support, but offering help and advice for Anne’s family. I am truly touched at how kind people are. Knitters and spinners rock!!!!

  18. Anne–

    How awful and unfair! I second those who say appeal to his Congressman or Senator–they have staffs who can cut through red tape. The other thing is, as in dealing with any bureaucracy, he shouldn’t take the first answer he gets–bump it up to a supervisor level–he cannot be the first person in SSA history to be in this situation.


  19. ABSOLUTELY CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN both the HOUSE of REp and the Senator!

    Also, do you have any friends in the local media? or anyone who does? this is a GREAT local story – and would be picked up pretty quickly esp now. Heck call your local newspaper and ask for the City Editor – and maybe email CNN – these kinds of stories easily can be picked up.

    but call the Congressmen’s local offices today!

    also – can the Dept of Defense help at all? or the VA (as someone else suggested).

    you may have to do a lot of phone calling = best of luck!

  20. Oh, Anne, what a mess – and I know how awful that is because I live with that type of bureacratic BS all the time…plus dumb uncaring people in jobs of authority…(only with us – Mom is from Puerto Rico – and they don’t seem to realize that she is a US citizen…duh..)

    Anyway, copies of his military records should show a date of birth…so, that is a good starting place…

    But, I would get the local newspaper involved – it’s amazing what the power of the pen can do especially if it’s on the front page!

    Call your Congressman and Senator and get them involved…it took our senator to get my mom’s medicare changed when we moved from one state to another…just kind of don’t let it die…keep after them until they get it right…

  21. Appalling! Add me to the chorus on contacting both the VA and your congressional representatives. Also, keep at it. Document EVERYTHING. Save every response you receive and always ask for names when talking to someone on the phone. Ultimately, someone has decided they don’t want to do the extra paperwork your FIL might require.

  22. NEWSMEDIA – that’s a really good idea – do to “7 on your side” at ABC 7 in NYC or a similar segment producer at one of the other networks

    It’s an embarassment that someone like that should have to be put through the ringer after paying his taxes and raising children and serving his country

  23. I concur with all of the above. hopefully Big Dave has encountered that one a–hole in SSA who loves to wield power by being an obstructionist.

    Contact not only his congressman and Senator but yours also – by mail, email and a barrage of phone calls. Make an appointment to meet in person. Mail (and email) is usually scanned by an underpaid, newly minted college grad that looks for the main topic and responds with a form letter.

  24. You might try contacting a social worker here who works with seniors or a nursing home to see if they have a procedure for this. He is not the only one. My grandmother had no such records, but that was before some of these patriot act changes.
    One thing would be to get whatever documentation even if it is that birth records are missing from the clerk of courts in the county where he was born. (They might surprise you and have some sort of record). With a letter from the clerk, his military record, driver’s license and SSN he should be able to appeal the ruling. Good luck

  25. I want to chime in with the calls to your Congressman and Senator, and especially call the local news media. I think this is exactly the sort of thing that will get attention from a reporter and public shame typically brings a response from our government. Best of luck to Dave in sorting it all out.

  26. It is traditional for all disability claims to be turned down the first time. And the investigation into birth dates has always been a real pain for everyone, no matter their racial background.

  27. Agree with all of the above, Anne – most of all, you and David will have to be persistent. Use any and all contacts you have. Who else is living in his area? A weekday visit may be necessary to appear in person. In this day of HIPA and all of the privacy regulations, if his dad can’t go to offices, he may have to sign for someone to speak on his behalf.
    Good luck!

  28. wow. appalling but not surprising (how depressing is that?)
    Lots of good advice has been given and I can only sing in the chorus here..
    call his local congressman, and state rep. Perhaps even try to get the help from an agency for the aging, or AARP, or, if it exists, help from a SSA watchdog group.
    And I echo what Anne C. above me said. This might be the perfect time for David (or you) to get the paperwork in order to do this FOR him.

    Hang in there.. I’m thinking good thoughts.

  29. oh, and you said Long Island. Don’t forget about contacing Hillary. I know she’s stepped in for others concerning medical care (not ncessarily SS benefits) but this is a former member of the military being taken through the ringer..I think she might be inclined to make some calls.

  30. Advice on contacting Senators and House of Rep:
    1) Do it.
    2) Do it through their local offices–all of them have a local office or two in their home state, and the local office can cut through to the Senator/rep’s attention (or that of staff) much more quickly.

    I wish I were surprised at this, but it will be worked out. Good luck on that being soon.

  31. I would consider calling the NAACP also. They will have the most experience with this kind of nonsense. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is also another good one. If they get their dander up…they are like pitbulls. I’m so sorry he has to go through all this. It’s hard enough to be sick and old!

  32. Anne, my father had to deal with SSA recently. It takes persistence and temper control. Maybe you might consider getting a reporter to write (or film) about this as a human interest story. Things like that getting published might get the attention of the SSA and local congressmen faster than trying to reach them directly. I’d have the aticle sent to the SSA, the VA, and to the government rep offices.
    Good luck.

  33. My grandfather had a similar situation. Born at home, with no formal recognition – i.e. public birth certificate. However, we did have a family Bible that dated back to the 1800’s, and all births were recorded. It was practically falling to pieces and had the old brown ink seen during that time. Social Security accepted that Bible as proof of his birth. Any chance there is something like that in the family somewhere?

    As one who battled the disability/social security debacle – you have my utmost sympathy. Don’t give up though – and also write your congressmen/senators for help. I hear some states actually have some that WILL help, although I wouldn’t know first hand.

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