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.