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Social Insecurity

It has been years since I’ve gone to a Social Security Office, but I remember hoping that I’d never have to go again.

However, now that I am not earning a salary, I could be eligible to have my monthly Medicare premium reduced because Social Security calls retirement a “life-changing event.” (I agree with them.) And that requires an office visit.

To maximize the chance that it would be a one-time visit, I did all my research in advance. 

On a recent bright winter morning, I gathered all my paperwork in a folder and appeared at the SS office at 11:31a.m., according to my sign-in ticket.  I was number A-37. They were helping A-21.  That didn’t seem like it would be a long wait, so I settled down with about thirty other people and the latest New Yorker magazine.

After the first hour of waiting, I could recite the intake officer’s speech.  “Hi, how are you?  What are you here for?”  Then depending on the answer, he led them through a computer screen of boxes to check off, and eventually, they too, received a slip with a number on it. A few times he had to tell people they were in the wrong place.  He advised those who, leaving in despair over the wait, that the best time to come in is 8:30 a.m.  (Note-to-self for any future visit.)

The intake officer was a big guy in uniform and he had a gun on his hip despite the “no weapons” sign.  As time passed, I began to have visions of a disgruntled client shooting up the place because he was tired of waiting. 

I wondered what all the other folks were missing.  Work?  Other appointments?  No one looked happy. Two hours after my arrival, they called my number.

When I left the SS office, it was 1:36 p.m.  My appointment lasted five minutes.  Despite my efforts, there was another required form for which I didn’t have the information.

So I’m not done yet.



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When I was notified that I needed to renew my driver's license, it said that I must go in for a vision test and new photo. Remembering past experiences at the Texas Department of Public Safety, I ate a hearty meal before leaving, took plenty of reading material, and mentally prepared myself for a crowded, noisy, unpleasant waiting area. What a surprise when I went to the new location in a former big box store and went inside. It was bright and clean and there was no waiting. I got the correct form (which I found out later could have been done online before going in). Barely had time to fill it out before being called to the appropriate waiting area. Didn't even sit down there before being called to the desk. I was photoed, fingerprinted (this was new, next time they will probably want a DNA swab), paid my $20, and was out the door in less than 15 minutes. Maybe the Social Security office could take some pointers from the Texas DPS. Fortunately, all of my Social Security interactions so far have been online, by phone, or by mail.

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