Today is February 14, 2018. It is Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day and my father’s birthday. I can no longer give up drinking for Lent, having foresworn it forever nine years ago, so am mulling over a new discipline to test my mettle. Last Thursday I drove up to Hudson, N.Y., the location of the nearest Social Security office since the Kingston office closed down.
I carried a folder with the precious proofs of my identity: birth certificate from Alabama, passport, and the latest driver’s license that the counterfeiters haven’t had long enough to master yet. My wait in the Hudson office was one hour and forty-eight minutes, during which I observed the life going on around me and had thoughts about citizenship, security and insecurity.
It began when my local bank notified me that it was closing its Woodstock branch. So I had to find another bank to receive my direct deposit from Social Security. Joining the new bank was a breeze. It was my first account with a credit union bank and it really WAS joining something. Credit unions are not businesses, you belong to something that’s on your side. The man who set up my account said the direct deposit setup was easy. Just e-mail social security and follow directions. Social Security had a few questions for me. Mother’s maiden name(ho-hum), my full name, my date and place of birth, city and state. What bank held my mortgage, and what were the monthly payments? I failed this test and was informed my account was locked down and I would have to speak to someone on the phone.
The phone person asked me a few questions, pretty much the same as the e-mail ones. I failed. “You get two more tries,”said the voice. Actually a friendly young woman’s voice. So I fiddled with the answers. Maybe I should have said “Bessemer, Alabama,” instead of “Birmingham.” Maybe I should have left out my middle name. “Can you tell me which one I got wrong?” “Sorry, we don’t know, either.”
Failed twice. Fiddle some more. Failed thrice. You will have to go in person to your nearest Social Security office and prove your identity. Nearest office was Kingston but it has has been closed. Go to Poughkeepsie or Hudson.
I never gave much thought to Social Security, except that IT WAS MY RIGHT. I had paid my money into it and now the time had arrived when an older me would be getting it back.
The first widespread social security program in the U.S. paid Civil War veterans and widows of Civil War veterans pensions. (Not Confederate veterans.)
In 1935, FDR sad there needed to be a law “to give some measure of protection to the average citizen and his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” He proposed “Social insurance.” First named the Economic Security Act, the Social Security Act became law in August of that year. At first it was only for the retired worker at 65. In 1939, it was amended to extend to spouses and minor children.
Minorities and women and certain occupations
I came across this, but cannot pin down the year things changed. If you know, please let me know and I will put it in this blog.
At first minorities and women did not qualify for Social Security. Also not included were those employed in nursing, teaching, agriculture, library services, social work, government work, domestic service, hospital work, and part-time workers. At first nearly one half of all working Americans did not qualify.
When did this change? What year?
“Isn’t this socialism?” Senator Thomas Gore (D-Ok) asked Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. “No, it isn’t,” she said. Pressing on, he asked, “Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?”
Waiting-time meditations of an old American citizen
Hugging my little envelope full of “proofs” that I am me, I wait with fifteen others for my turn. If I am this worried, how worried must all those immigrants be, waiting with their envelopes to be allowed in? And what about all the people halfway in who got the rules changed on them?
How easily can “belonging” get rescinded?
Compared to, say, two years ago, this first day of Lent in 2016, how safe are we today from losing securities we have always assumed are our rights?
How it turned out for the old American citizen
Number S- 607, please go to window 2.”
“How can I help you?”
“Well, I failed my test on line and over the phone, so I was told to come here. What I’m trying to do is move my direct deposit from my old bank, which is closing, to this new bank.”
I passed the bank information under a glass that separated me from her.
“I just need to see your driver’s license.”
I slid it under. She typed on her keyboard and it was done.
“You mean, that’s it?”
“You’re all set.”
Lenten Practice for 2018
There’s something called Intercessory Prayer. For the next forty days I will pray for all those waiting to get in.
And the Buddhists have a practice called a Dedication of Merit. When you finish a task, you dedicate it to someone or to a group of people. For the next forty days, after I finish writing, I will dedicate it to all those waiting to belong.
Morning moon over Woodstock