The Good Old Days of Social Security

by akoloy

I’ve been writing a e-book for years now. It’s not going to be a bestseller, and it solely has to do with Social Security in a peripheral manner. It’s a historical past of my life, my spouse’s life, and our lives collectively (about 47 years thus far). I’m penning this assortment of tales for my youngsters and grandchildren and for his or her youngsters and grandchildren. Some of them, little doubt, will discover it boring. But I’m positive that a number of of my descendants someplace down the street will probably be fascinated by it.

My spouse and I’ve been beginner genealogists for years now. We can hint our households’ histories again for a lot of centuries. And we are able to inform you from expertise that any type of written household historical past is an absolute treasure trove. Both my spouse and I had uncles who wrote journals, and we’ve realized a lot by studying what they wrote down many a long time in the past. And the tales in these journals will be so fascinating. For instance, you’d be completely mesmerized by my Uncle Gene’s recollections of his struggles as a Marine on Iwo Jima throughout World War II. (He was there once they raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. He simply didn’t get within the iconic image that grew to become some of the well-known images of the twentieth century.)

As a retired civil servant (and now a frumpy grandpa), I don’t have any earth-shaking tales like that to share. After all, I spent a very good chunk of my life serving to folks fill out boring previous authorities varieties to file for Social Security advantages. Nobody ever took an image of me doing that and tried to show it right into a statue or a postage stamp! But I did have fascinating experiences and just a little little bit of enjoyable alongside the way in which. And I believed I’d share a pair Social Security-related tales with you immediately.

I spent a very good little bit of my early Social Security Administration profession as what the company referred to as a “field representative.” While the main SSA workforce sat at desks all day and took claims from individuals who got here into an area Social Security workplace, discipline reps went out to distant places and arrange store for a day, normally in a senior heart or another public constructing in these far-flung cities.

In the late Nineteen Seventies, I used to be the sphere consultant within the Everett, Washington, Social Security workplace. And our service space was fascinating and different. It ran from islands within the Puget Sound to little hamlets within the Cascade Mountains.

Once every week, I might get on a ferry simply outdoors of Everett and make a journey over to Whidbey Island. There I might go to the senior heart in Langley and open up my little mini Social Security workplace.

Inevitably, once I’d get to the senior heart, there would already be 20 or 30 folks ready for me. Besides a wholesome dose of senior residents, a lot of my guests have been younger dad and mom (normally moms) with little children in tow. You might marvel what they have been doing at a Social Security gathering. Well, they have been there to get new Social Security numbers for children, or substitute playing cards for themselves or older youngsters.

I purposely level this out as a result of I steadily get emails from older readers who complain that they went to a Social Security workplace and located the ready room filled with youthful folks. And they normally say one thing like this to me: “No wonder Social Security has problems. You’re handing out benefits to young people and even kids!” So for those who go to a Social Security workplace and see a lot of youthful folks, please perceive that most likely 90 p.c of them are there for Social Security numbers and playing cards. It’s the biggest workload in any Social Security workplace.

Back to my senior heart on Whidbey Island. I might spend the day serving to younger folks get Social Security playing cards and serving to previous folks file for Social Security advantages. After spending 5 or 6 hours there, I might head again to the ferry with my briefcase full of filled-out purposes and varieties.

Then, the subsequent day, I might drive as much as just a little Cascade Mountain hamlet referred to as Skykomish, Washington, and begin the method yet again. A few days later, I’d be off to a different island (Camano Island). It was a reasonably good life. I imply, for those who’ve acquired to be a boring previous authorities worker, you may as properly be one who will get to drive round and see fascinating locations as a part of the job.

Just a few years later, I discovered myself as the sphere consultant within the Social Security workplace in Boise, Idaho. Boise’s service space was large—a giant chunk of south and central Idaho. There I discovered myself taking in a single day journeys to distant locales. For instance, I would depart Boise on a Tuesday morning, drive north 100 miles or so and arrange store for the remainder of the morning in Cascade, Idaho. After caring for the native townsfolk there, I might proceed driving north one other 100 miles or so to the resort city of McCall, Idaho, with an impressive mountain setting proper on an alpine lake. I’d test right into a resort for the night time.

Then, on Wednesday morning, I might arrange my mini Social Security workplace, however not in a senior heart. Instead, it was in a gathering room of a deluxe lakeside resort. Gosh, if you must take Social Security quantity purposes and retirement claims, you may as properly accomplish that in a lakeside resort with home windows searching over snow-covered mountains!

Sometimes, discipline representatives even made “house calls.” One time, I used to be despatched to a house outdoors of Emmett, Idaho. I used to be there to take a retirement declare from a man who was briefly housebound in a wheelchair following a snowboarding accident. He was a retired senior pilot for United Airlines. And he lived in one of many greatest properties I had ever been in. It was a three-story older Victorian dwelling surrounded by acres of open land. It was the one personal dwelling I’d ever seen with its personal elevator!

All these reminiscences convey a smile to my face. I consider my time as a discipline consultant because the “good old days” of Social Security. The service we offered was phenomenal! Not solely did we go round to each little burg and hamlet and supply one-on-one service to the native citizenry, however we additionally went to folks’s properties to handle their Social Security enterprise. That simply doesn’t occur anymore.

And I perceive why it’s a factor of the previous. It was an exquisite manner to offer service to our clients. But that was 40 years in the past. Today, with the web and cellphones and different fashionable instruments, it makes no financial sense to be working round from hamlet to hamlet and home to accommodate. But it’s additionally too unhealthy. We’ve misplaced a manner of doing Social Security enterprise that I believe was one thing particular.

Tom Margenau labored for 32 years in a wide range of positions for the Social Security Administration earlier than retiring in 2005. He has served because the director of SSA’s public data workplace, the chief editor of greater than 100 SSA publications, a deputy press officer and spokesman, and a speechwriter for the commissioner of Social Security. For 12 years, he additionally wrote Social Security columns for native newspapers, and lately revealed the e-book “Social Security: Simple and Smart.” If you will have a Social Security query, contact him at [email protected]

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