Aug 18, 2013

"It Is A Frustrating Bureaucracy"

     From some Arizona newspaper that hides its name on its website:
Gaye Kelley spent 50 years in the workforce, doing many jobs: teacher, flight attendant and, eventually, Salt River Project customer-service representative for 30 years.
When the Mesa resident retired in 2011, she had accrued a full two years of vacation pay and sick days from SRP. She looked forward to retirement. But instead of fully enjoying it, Kelley was forced to do battle with a big government agency, the Social Security Administration.
“It is a frustrating bureaucracy is what it is,” she said.
When Kelley retired in April 2011, she started receiving Social Security benefit checks totaling $1,352 a month. But the following year, she began receiving notices that she owed the agency $10,857 in overpayment of benefits.
Social Security demanded the money back immediately. Kelley was flabbergasted.
In their notices, Social Security asserted that Kelley was working and collecting benefits at the same time, which is against the law. The truth is she was retired and receiving accrued vacation and sick pay from SRP.
Her former employer apparently had lumped the vacation and sick pay together and reported it to the Internal Revenue Service as income. This set off months of back-and-forth communications between Social Security Administration representatives and Kelley.
“It was eight months of insanity,” Kelley said. ...
“I have found that the people in the phone center (Social Security reps), as polite as they are, are empowered to do nothing for you. What boggles my mind in this whole thing is that I had to come to you!” Kelley said.


Anonymous said...

The MET allows payment of benefits to a beneficiary even if he or she has substantial earnings prior to the month of entitlement (MOE). It allows a beneficiary who returns to substantial work later in that year to keep the benefits paid during those months when he or she was not working.

Shouldn't have been that hard to fix. Even if the above didn't resolve it, Special Wage Payment should have been processed with the FO.

Anonymous said...

Have employer submit SSA-131.

Anonymous said...

"I have found that the people in the phone center (Social Security reps), as polite as they are, are empowered to do nothing for you."

They can do an MDW to the PC. ROTFLMAO

Anonymous said...

"Her former employer apparently had lumped the vacation and sick pay together and reported it to the Internal Revenue Service as income."

Well it is income, just not countable as wages under the earnings test.

RS 02505.240 Summary of How Major Types of Remuneration Are Treated:

55. Payments Upon or After Retirement

Do not count payments statutorily excluded such as “because of retirement” or “on account of retirement.” If not thus excluded, count in last month of employment (or prior period earned if benefits are affected)

86. Vacation Pay (Includes Annual Leave and Pay in Lieu of Vacation)

Count vacation pay in period of absence if employment relationship is continuing. If employment is terminated, count in last month worked (or in period earned if benefits are affected)

Anonymous said...

Even money that this was an internet claim where some poorly trained individual coded the month of election as 'C' indicating the claimant chose that month regardless of material earnings.

However, instead of actually posting the earnings she suspected she would receive (which would be a special wage payment), they coded $0 on the application and no non-service months. Boom, instant enforcement and month of entitlement change to January of the following year and a confusing notice trying to explain it.

Her work did nothing wrong by reporting the earnings. This has everything to do with reps not properly coding internet claims properly. People made over $100,000 through the middle of the year, but reps are still coding $0.00 as the work estimate for that year because that is what they think they make after they begin receiving benefits; still ignoring to code non-work months.

Even having been out of the PSC for some time, I clearly remember numerous times where people in the field and TSC failed to accurately explain the earnings test and how simple it was to resolve or prevent most of these problems.

Anonymous said...

The failure could also be the applicants failure to listen to the instructions or read the material handed to them. At the time applications are taken, there is a great deal of information being said and handed out and provided in the award notices and in the pamphlets included with the award notices. It does need to be read and understood. And not all reporting instructions apply to all applicants. For instance, does this poster know when and how Medicare Part A, B and D will kick in and what she has to do? Does she know the annual earnings test amount for 2013 if she decides to return to work? Does she know when and how to file a widow or surviving divorced spouse claim? Does she know what will happen if she chooses to live outside the US? I don't think it is possible to explain ALL of the things that can affect benefits in a 45 minute retirement interview and now since SSA is encouraging online retirement claims, there will be no one adding verbal instruction to the written words that the applicants are not reading.

Anonymous said...

The linked article is from, the portal for KPNX-TV and The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.

Paul Davidson said...

Just in case anyone needs to fill out a form SSA-131, I found a blank form in this site PDFfiller. This site also has several related forms that you might find useful.