How the mighty have fallen

How the mighty have fallen

Back in the latter half of the twentieth century, people in the USA had a certain sense of superiority and condescension toward Communist nations, especially the now defunct USSR.

It was common to see portrayals of helpless people caught in a suffocating web of red tape spun by the mindless minions of their multi-layered bureaucracy.

We mocked the lack of motivation of these masses who were benumbed to the execrable customer service and inefficiency of the government agencies controlling every aspect of their lives. This was a circumstance no red-blooded American would ever tolerate, we proclaimed from our lofty perspective.

Flash forward to Election Day 2016; no matter who are elected to positions in government, they can do little to reverse our nation’s fall into the very bureaucratic nightmare we once derided.

Anyone who has had interactions with our governmental agencies has a horror story to tell. My own experience is hardly the worst, but it is typical. It’s a long story, but when it comes to dealing with the Federal Government, there are no other kind.

Before I retired a year ago, I went through all the Social Security Administration (SSA) planning steps to make certain I could afford to leave my employment, filed the papers and began to receive my monthly check. Six months later, I received a notice that the money I was receiving had been miscalculated (by SSA), paying me twice as much as I was due, and demanding immediate repayment. A form to charge this repayment to my credit card was included. I chose that option to give myself time to rework my budget and watched my credit card for the charge to appear. Weeks passed from the day when I’d sent in the form, but no charge appeared.

“I’ll call them,” I thought, in my naiveté.  

The repayment center for SSA has the usual voicemail gauntlet for callers to navigate, but at the end, rather than being able to leave a message or join a call-back cue, you are told to try some other time.  I spent three days dialing every twenty minutes and never got through, so I tried other SSA help numbers and was bounced from city to city where I spoke to agents who all gave me different advice, with the final consensus being that the SSA was experiencing a severe backlog and I should just wait for it to resolve itself. I wrote to SSA, as well, but received no response.

After a few more weeks, I received a letter from SSA stating that since I had not made an effort to repay, the money I owed (due to their miscalculation, remember?) would be deducted from my monthly payments, so I would receive no money until the second quarter of 2017. Plus, I would need to pay my Medicare part B premiums.

I sucked it up and sent in my premium. The very day that check cleared my bank, the SSA processed my credit card for the full repayment. Now they had my money  and they were also withholding it.  A period of weeks of exchanging phone calls and faxes with my bank ensued, eventually resulting in a reversal of the charge to my card.

Happy ending to the story, right? But no, this is a government agency where the right hand never communicates with the left.  Just this week I received a direct deposit to my bank account returning an overpayment of my repayment! Someone must have noticed my credit card had been charged for the overpayment and never bothered to pull up my full account history and learn the credit card charge had been reversed.

That money will remain untouched in my bank, accumulating interest, until I receive what I anticipate will be a sternly-worded demand to immediately return it. It should come any month, now.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Too big to fail.” Perhaps our current government is too big, too bloated, to succeed.

When did the USA become a nation of sheep, willing to take whatever is fed to us by our government without a single “Baa” of protest?

Published by J.B.Hawker

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