On a busy Friday evening, while making lamb meatballs and rice pilaf, I dialed the Social Security 800 number. I waited for about 40 minutes before getting human interaction, but it was well worth it.
The letter they sent is a mystery to them. The person I spoke to was as baffled as I was, and their supervisor was baffled, too. They have sent a request to the local office for an explanation and, hopefully, I will receive a phone call from the person who issued the letter within 10 business days. If they don’t call me, I am to go to the office and ask for an explanation.
The response I got echoed my own reaction: 1) why now?, 2) why at all, 3) the record is as clear as a bell, and there is no question. The best guess is that there was a clerical error when they did their most recent call with us. If it’s a clerical error, why wasn’t it properly audited?
So, we go to bed a little calmer. I won’t force J to leave the house to appear at a district office on Monday. He is disrupted enough by the letter, the phone calls, the stress as it is right now.
The phone rep, an articulate, helpful, efficient young man who understood why we were asking all the questions we were asking, told me to sit tight and wait. I will respect his request. I will also, once the 9 days are up, put on my dress, my hells, pack my binders, and -like my aunt use to do- march my fanny down to the SSA office to get this thing squared away.
The misconception that people who cannot verify their citizenship get away with collecting benefits is sad. When you apply for benefits, your ass becomes a high-traffic tunnel through which many (with spelunking helmets, high-powered lanterns, and all sorts of equipment) crawl freely. If you manage to slide through a crack and don’t immediately get caught, trust me, they will catch you.
Like I told Dada over a bowl of fixings for lamb meatballs: would Jon Neiderlander or Tiffany McAllister get questioned? Probably not. If a supervisor was acting based on a report generated by an underling who was not yet fully independently functional in using a database, that’s what auditing is for. You double-check, and double-check again before you issue a letter questioning a person’s information giving conflicting names. When I worked for the federal government (back when I was young, green and untried) I would get called to the mat if I made a mistake. And we didn’t have the sophisticated software that is currently in place.
If there is one thing I learned early on about customer service it isn’t that the customer is always right, but rather that the customer can be made to see where they are wrong if one uses the proper courtesy and dignity when dealing with a situation. When a person providing a service acts as if the service is being provided to an inferior being, the battle is already half lost. When a person doesn’t understand the nature of the information on which their service is based, the rest of the battle goes down the pipes.
A simple audit of J’s actual file would have clarified the whole thing. Yes, a lot of people receive benefits, but you consider that there are 600 Hispanics in this town, and that it’s very likely a very small portion of them receive SSI benefits, it stands to reason that looking at the file isn’t such a stretch of resources. If you consider that the letter can be worded as a requisition of verification rather than summons to prove that you are not committing fraud…well…
That’s where things stand. Lamb meatballs, pilaf, a nice Rioja, Bull Durham and a pint of ice cream later we are ready to face the weekend. Kindness to The Other doesn’t have to mean ass-kissing…it can mean something as simple as doing the job right.