March 17, 2009

Social Security Administration Observations

Yesterday I went to the Social Security Administration to get a replacement card. My Social Security card was accidentally torn. This will never happen again, believe me. Why you cannot laminate these paper beauties is beyond me.

I have a few observations about my visit:

  1. It is against the law to kill, kidnap, abuse or otherwise harm a Social Security Administrator while they are performing their duties. Funny, I thought it was illegal to do this period. Well, just so you know, this warning is posted on the wall.
  2. Make an appointment if at all possible. This will cut your wait time down to one hour. If you try calling in advance for information or to make an appointment, expect the direct line to be busy. Call the 1-800 number so you can speak to the computer and get nowhere.
  3. If you walk in and wait, your estimated wait time is well over 2 hours, even if they tell you it will be approximately 90 minutes. And, whatever you do, don't leave the room once you check in (even to use the restroom). If they call you after you've checked in and you don't respond, you will lose your turn. Also, consider bringing your own seating as there are not enough chairs to accommodate everyone.
  4. Don't bring your kids. Children cannot sit and wait patiently for hours on end. The Social Security Administration does not provide entertainment for kids nor do they appreciate your children using the water fountain as their personal sprinkler toy.
  5. Don't bother bringing your camera to take candid images of your experience. This is posted on the entrance door: "No Cameras or Photographs Allowed!"
  6. Even though there are several service windows, only one will be open at any given time. You will, however, see many Social Security Administrators conjugated beyond the walls and wonder why they are not assisting people.
  7. You cannot obtain a Social Security card for any person other than yourself, if they are not infants or incapacitated, even with their identification in hand. You must apply in person. Three "customers" tried to do this while I was waiting.
  8. Proper identification is your state issued driver's license or identification card, military ID, green card, or passport. Your library card does not qualify. If you provide ID other than the above accepted, you will be turned away and have to return for another long wait time. This happened twice during my visit.
  9. Even though there is a television in the waiting room to help pass the time, don't expect it to be on.
  10. The Social Security Administration has a security guard to keep people in line and assist you. However, they are uninformative and allowed to ignore you while they play on their cell phones and surf the Internet on their provided desktop computer.
  11. When you visit the offices, don't be shy. Expect to gain some lifetime friends, or perhaps a new partner, when you conduct business there. With the tight quarters, limited seating, and long wait time you will become too close for comfort and have your personal space invaded.

Of course, before I went to the office in person, I had an online encounter with the Social Security website. Posted everywhere in the office are signs telling you to conduct most of your Social Security business online to save time and hassle. Sadly, you can only get a new card in person. Here's some of my online observations:

  1. The website has links that give you 404 messages.
  2. The pdf links to forms are as slow as molasses.
  3. The office locator does not allow you to directly zoom or expand the map and the written directions are rather sketchy.
More about the office locator, I live outside of San Antonio, which is a fairly large city. When I plugged in my zip code the office locator said my local Social Security office was in Seguin, which is over 100 miles from my home.

In San Antonio there is only one office to get a new Social Security card. This office is located downtown in the center of the city. It is also over 75 miles from my home-not very convenient. I would think Social Security, as big as it is, would have more service centers especially in a city the size of San Antonio.

I searched the office locator with several different zip codes hoping to find an office closer to me. I had no luck plugging San Antonio zip codes, only the downtown office popped up. You can only search for offices by zip code, by the way. But they do have a link for you to look up zip codes if you need to, and you will.

Finally, I went outside of the box and plugged in some zip codes from surrounding towns and found an office about 35 miles from my home.

In the end, my business with the Social Security Administration is done. I can expect my new card to arrive in the mail in 4 to 6 weeks!

Wait, I just had a funny thought, you can go to the office of Vital Statistics where you were born, or died, and get a certified birth or death certificate immediately. Why can't Social Security cards be printed immediately?

Also, in the office, they have signs posted about identity theft prevention and to guard from throwing your Social Security card in the trash. I can expect my card in the mail, regular mail, that is placed in a box that sits unguarded on the side of the road. What's to prevent someone from pilfering my Social Security card from my mailbox? I mean, if they'll dig in the trash to steal an identity, surely they'll steal mail too.

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  1. Muse:

    Oh yeah baby. You are so right. But just wait until till it's time to apply for your SS Checks. That's when the real fun begins.

    Everything you said was true. The Queen and I have both gone through it. Torture. She thinks that to work for SS you have to be physically or mentally challenged. It's either that, or they get their employees from the state department of motor vehicles. So bring Lithium or Vicodin.

    Very good post that touches home like a Vampire's kiss.

    Happy trails.

  2. Oh Muse, you expect people whose salary YOU pay to act as if you're their boss?! Doesn't happen. I live in the state capital and know people who have become PUBLIC SERVANTS. They go into the job with the belief they are going to be different--but the bureaucracy wins, every time.

    And how about this advice: Always carry your social security card with you--never put it in your wallet in case it's stolen. Where do you put it...?

  3. Hi Swu!

    Lithium or Vicodin, or how about a stiff drink?

    I totally agree with the Queen. The motor vehicles place is right up there with this office too. I had to go there for my address change when we bought this house. That place is insane.

    Have a good one!

  4. Hey Conda!

    I suppose we could stuff the card in our bra. You know the funny thing is it tore because it was in my wallet, the zipper caught it.

    I've got my number memorized. I'm thinking of not carrying it anymore. I wonder if that's against the law?

    Take care!

  5. Hi! Just got back from learning what a social security card is. Many things by the looks of things although they say its main use now is for identification purposes. Correct me if I'm wrong here, please.

    Downunder, they were talking of bringing in a National ID card (with photo), but so many whinged about it especially the civil libertarians that I think it's gone out the back door.

    We have had similar problems to you, in regards to our children when they were starting off at school. Trying to open a bank account for them was a nightmare, as they kept asking for 100 points of identification documentation. Well, how many kids at that age have anything like that.

    Anyway, I'm glad you sorted things out in the end. How's the stomach ulcar?

    Take Care,

  6. Heaven forbid! Do you see how I spelt ulcer. You'd think I'd know better! - Peter

  7. Muse,
    I love how you turned an awful experience into a very funny post. Too true.
    When I'm stressed, I tend to forget my SS number (particularly when they ask for the last four digits), but God forbid I should take it with me, as Conda warned.
    In fact...wonder where mine is...arrgh.

  8. Hello Peter!

    Shoot, I should have explained what it was...I'm glad you got it though. Don't you just love the Internet?

    Identification is it's main purpose. It's the number attached to us for our taxes, Social Security income, and how the government tracks us--maybe? Some people refer to it as our Tax ID Number.

    The legal stuff for kids is a nightmare. I've been there too. One thing is the hospitals give you a birth certificate, called an heirloom copy, which is useless for anything legal. You must obtain a certified copy from vital statistics, for a fee. We do get our Social Security cards at birth, required now, so that serves as an ID of sorts.

    I just love red tape!

    After some Pepto Bismol I was feeling a trite better.

    Have a good one!

  9. Hey Kathy!

    You don't know where yours is?!? Oh my. This post is a forewarning for what you've got to look forward to when you go get another copy.

    I feel for you!

    I'm going to treat my card as a treasure from now on, that's for sure.

    Take care!

  10. Muse!

    That's government beaurocracy for you. Sometimes the civilian wing of the government makes the military look downright efficient!

    Just wait, it'll get better when they open the new Carbon Coupon offices and the Obamesiah forces National Healthcare down our throats.

    Governmentium ad Nauseum!

  11. Hi J.L!

    Oh I can't wait! We've already been experiencing some changes with our health insurance and it's private (company). I don't know if it's because of the stuff going down in the government or not. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Have a good weekend!


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