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Epic fail at Social Security Administration

By Walter Geiger You’ve all been there. You’ve seen the person in front of you in the grocery checkout line with a vast array of expensive items pay for them with an EBT card or voucher or both but have plenty of cash to spend on beer and cigarettes before walking out to a car nicer than yours. You know the guy around the corner who is supposedly on disability but can lift a washing machine by himself and works all sorts of jobs ‘˜off the books’ so as not to jeopardize his check. He parks in the handicap spot though he has no trouble getting around. Perhaps these folks are legit. Perhaps not. Either way, it makes your blood boil just a little every time you see such a scenario play out. Ruth, who lives hereabouts, has always felt the same way but her indignation is even more acute these days after a surprise letter arrived at her home from the Social Security Administration. Ruth’s father was a Baptist minister, did a little farming on the side and was a manager for McCrory/McClelland/ Green stores. Remember Green Stamps? Her mother worked in the churches and stores. The parents later divorced and Ruth’s mom moved to Florida. Her father’s health began a steep decline. Knowing he could not care for Ruth himself and not wanting to uproot her during her last two years of high school, he arranged for her to stay in a foster home. He died in 1974. Ruth graduated with the second highest average among a class of about 500 seniors. She went on to what was then Gordon Junior College. An aunt, Ruth’s father’s sister, was also a McClelland store manager in Florida. She requested a transfer to Georgia and, fortunately, the store manager in Griffin was retiring. The aunt got that job and moved here so Ruth could live with her while she worked on her degree. Ruth’s mother also came to live with them. She died in 1991. Ruth graduated from Gordon, married and has had a long, successful career with a local financial institution where she is still employed. Then the letter from Social Security arrived, alleging Ruth had been overpaid benefits in the amount of $163.50 and demanding repayment. Ruth, to her knowledge, had never drawn any such benefits. Ruth had lived at seven different addresses since the alleged overpayment though three of those addresses where the same home which was renumbered for 911 purposes. She was shocked when she got the letter but later determined that either her foster parents, mother or aunt, who died in 2012, must have gotten benefits following her father’s death. She never saw a penny of the money. ’I knew them all well enough to know none of them would have ever tried to beat the government out of any money,’ Ruth notes. The SSA inquisitors spent hundreds of hours tracking down an honest, hard-working, taxpaying citizen over $163.50 that was paid out 40 years ago. And, now, the battle with SSA has been joined. As you can imagine, it has been a David vs. Goliath struggle – a do the right thing American citizen vs. a government that increasingly places no importance on hard work and vastly prefers catering to deadbeats. Ruth eventually won assurance that her paltry debt would be waived. She checks the mail each day for confirmation but it has not yet arrived. Perhaps that, too, will take 40 years. SSA is packed full of the same sort of grossly inefficient government functionaries many now want to put in charge of your health care. Ruminate long and hard on that. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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