Thursday, July 20, 2017


[I just found this letter, became righteously indignant all over again, and decided to share it with To Whom It May Concern, aka Everyone. bbm 11/11/12]

                                                                Barbara Malley
61 Broad Reach, M19
Weymouth, MA 02191

September 14, 2010
Congressman Bill Delahunt
333 Victory Rd.
Quincy, MA 02171-3111

Dear Mr. Delahunt:

     I am an 89-year-old constituent who has just had the most horrible, frustrating day of my long life, trying to deal with Social Security Administrative representatives. I am the caregiver, with power of attorney, for my sister Janeth Black, who lives in an assisted-living facility, Allerton House, 15 Condidto Rd., Hingham, Massachusetts.
     The problem started yesterday when I noticed a $20 service charge on her account at the Colonial Federal Savings Bank In Quincy. I called the bank and learned this was because the balance had dropped below $25,000, the amount required for a “High Yield” account (the interest currently .45% or $9.21 for the month). I was advised to move the balance to the other bank where my sister has an account, the Rockland Trust Company in Hingham.
     “You will have to call Social Security to switch your sister’s direct deposit to the Hingham bank,” my adviser added.
     I went to the Rockland Trust Company yesterday and talked to a young woman named Jodi. She called Social Security and learned there would be a 15-minute wait, so she couldn’t help me. This morning I called at 8:00 and was greeting by an electronic voice with a good many electronic questions. I had a difficult time choosing the options I was given for stating my concern. At long last, “personal” proved to be the magic word required for me to be connected to a living voice. But wait, I must first answer a few more questions. The last one was my date of birth. I said, “Zero eight, one seven, one nine two one (08-17-1921)”. The voice said this was not an acceptable answer. “Please state your date of birth again.” After I gave the same answer four or five more times, I was told electronically that I would be connected with a human being—although that was not the term used, of course.
     Jeff came on the line. I told him what I was trying to accomplish. He said I would have to go to the social security office and arrange to be a payee for my sister. When I told him I was eighty-nine and walking on streets and in buildings was arduous (I had back surgery two years ago and a knee replacement last year), Jeff gave me an alternative. I could go to my sister’s apartment and have a three-way conversation.
     Fortunately, my sister’s residence is only a fifteen-minute drive. I went to her apartment and told her what we needed to do. I called the Social Security number and explained the situation. Apparently I was too verbose because the rep at last  said, “Are you finished?”
     I said, “What?” (I wear hearing aids, but still sometimes say, “What?”)
     “Are you finished? If you are I can tell you what our rules and regulations are.”
     I had heard “rules and regulations” loud and clear a couple of times before. The rep asked me for my Social Security number and a few other questions. Then she said to put my sister on the line.
     Janeth was able to rattle off her social security number (although she had feared she would forget it under pressure). She answered more questions, then got one that puzzled her. She was asked what her middle name was. She turned to me, stumped for an answer, because our mother had given neither one of us a middle name.
     “I guess she means your maiden name, Beyer,” I said.
     Janeth returned to the rep, saying “Beyer” in answer to the question. Then she looked at me and said, “She wants to speak to you.”
     And here is what she said, Congressman Delahunt. “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to terminate this call. You are not allowed to supply answers to questions.”
     “But my sister has Alzheimer’s!” I cried. “That’s why she’s in assisted living!”
     “If she is not competent to answer the questions, you will have to go to the social security office and make an application to be a representative payee.” When I protested that this would be hard for me to do at my advanced age, she said, “We have our rules and regulations.”
     I lost it. I didn’t use the f-word she deserved, but said the treatment I'd received from beginning to end was unbelievable. She said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t give this call any more time,” and hung up.
     I had no choice but to go to Quincy and look for the building on Hancock Street. Since you live in Quincy, Mr. Delahunt, you must be aware that driving on Hancock Street is not a pleasure. I asked a stranger where the Social Security office was, and he pointed to a building some distance away. I parked in a handicapped parking space and began to walk. The sun was beating down and I could feel my face flaming, as it does when I’m stressed and/or overheated. When at last I reached the building, I asked a couple of exiting young men if I had the right place. One of them, whom I dubbed Saint Richard when I learned his name, escorted me through the hall to the elevator and stayed with me until we entered the office and I drew ticket # 58. Luckily, it was called almost  immediately.
     I stated my problem to the young woman in the window. After entering my information in her computer, she said, “Do you have a letter from your sister’s doctor, attesting to her inability to manage her own finances?”
     Well, yes, I did have such a letter but it was at home in my file of documents for Janeth. I gave her Dr. Freed’s number, and she said she would process my request when the doctor verified my claim. I have no quarrel with this representative. She wasn’t exactly warm, but she wasn’t as frigid as others I had dealt with. As I was leaving the building I heard a woman expostulating to her daughter about the frustrating time she was having with Social Security.
      “All I want is to change my address, but it’s been taking me weeks!”
     When I at last got back to my car, I asked a passerby how to get to Westwood and Rte 128, as I had told my daughter I’d be dropping by with a book. This was the first of many times that I asked directions. I got on a highway that allegedly led to Rte 128 but after a long drive found myself in South Boston.
     Well, you get the picture of my nightmarish day, Mr. Delahunt. Ordinarily I’m a happy, fulfilled octogenarian who plays duplicate bridge three times a week, used to fly a twin-engine Cessna Skyknight, published articles about my adventures and a memoir called Take My Ex-Husband, Please—But Not Too Far. My latest writing project is a play co-written with my daughter, Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison, called “The Tempestuous Triangle.” We’ve had one reading at Kathie’s house to wild acclaim, and will have two more here in Weymouthport’s function room on the weekend of November sixth and seventh. The admission is free, but donations will be welcomed to Kathie’s new blog, She has already been invited to speak at her alma mater, Swarthmore College.
Barbara Malley

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