Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why the Obama presidency frightens me.

He thinks that government can do everything better. Financial problems? The government will step in. Health care system in need of overhaul? Let the government run it. Social security system about to fail? The government will take care of it...oh wait, they already do and it is failing anyway.

I can only conclude that President Obama has never actually been a supplicant in a government run office. He simply couldn't hold his grandiose theories of government rescue if he had.

I went to the Social Security office today to get a number for Josiah. We had carefully collected everything their website said we needed, and filled out the application in advance. At the door we were met by a "security guard"; an overweight desk clerk with a badge and a gun. He told us to "get a number and sit down over there." The only open seats had a large sign above them informing us that we could not sit there. We stood.

We stood for a long time. The boys were angels - playing reasonably quietly with their cars and trucks. Regardless, we got many "can't you keep them quiet" glares from the man with the badge. After about 45 minutes, and having watched many people who arrived after we did get their numbers called, I asked the guard if he could explain the number system to me. He said something about their being multiple numbering systems and told me, again, to go sit down. I asked if he could find out an estimate of how much longer it might be, since I had small children who needed naps, and I might need to leave and try again later. He snapped "That's not my job. Go sit down."

Ok then.

Eventually our number did get called. I handed the clerk all my paperwork, only to be informed that she couldn't accept copies of Josiah's records.

"They have to be originals."

Originals? What medical practice is going to give me original medical records? I explained that this was what the doctor's office had given me, knowing that it was for the social security office, and noted that none of the requirements online said anything about "original" medical records. They simply said that they had to be records from the doctor's office.

"I can't accept these because they aren't originals."

"Ok. What exactly do I need to get, then?" She rattled off a long list, too fast for me to process. "Could you write that down for me?"

The clerk glared at me and shoved my own papers back toward me. "You can write it down." And rattled it off again, too fast, before I could even pick up a pen.

I asked if she could repeat it, slower, and if she would mind signing it just so that I would have some record of what I'd been told. (The person ahead of me in line had run into a problem because what he'd been told on a previous visit to the office apparently wasn't correct, so I wanted some kind of assurance against that happening to me!)

"I don't have to sign anything for you! We're done!" And she tried to slam the window in my face. Since all my paperwork (including my drivers license) was still on her side of the window, I kept my hand in the way, gathered my papers, and asked why she couldn't sign what she was telling me to do?

That's when the security guard came lumbering over, hand on his gun, and told me to leave the premises immediately or he would call "federal police" and send me to prison.

No, I'm not kidding.

I left, of course. In a government office there is no recourse. You can't ask to speak to a manager or a supervisor. They don't care if you aren't satisfied with their "service" because they don't answer to anyone. Nevermind that it is we, the people, whom they are supposed to be serving. There is nothing I can do if a petty clerk decides to be unhelpful and have her resident bully throw me out.

God help us if this is what we can look forward to at the pediatrician's office.


Jonathan said...

...I'd be using my one phone call from prison to commiserate with you right now if that had happened to me...

Sorry to hear about it though, hope you get it worked out.

Go listen to Brad Paisley's song "Mr. Policeman" or something like that, and laugh about the security guard :) It will make you feel better!

Sweetwater Savings said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you, I can only imagine how you felt. Stuff like this seems to be happening more and more to people, it's really getting scary. I hope you can shake it off :)

Meg McElwee said...

It sounds like any given day at the DMV! Really, you have to feel sorry for these people who have such boring jobs. But geez, what an un-fun way to spend a day. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

Actually, social security is completely solvent until 2042. Patrick is an expert on this stuff - he worked with economists on the issue in DC for several years. I can't explain the math, but he can, if you're interested. :) I know you like the math - I prefer geometry, and I'll stick to my sewing patterns, thank you very much!

Also, about health care - my dad (a really conservative fellow, if you recall) is now on Medicare and is loving it. His quality of care is great and he doesn't have to deal with all the insurance company stuff anymore. Meanwhile, my mom can't get on Medicare, she's too young, but NO private insurance companies will insure her because her medical records state that she will probably have to have hip replacement surgery in the future. Seriously - and my parents have a lot of resources with which to navigate the system. It's a real hoot, this health system of ours! One thing is for sure - something has to change! Private insurance companies' only interest is their bottom line, not the people.

Jenn said...

Oh yuck. This is not a fun story ... I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully you're able to get everything worked out without more headache!

And yes. The Obama presidency certainly scares me for the same reasons.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Meg, I know that it is supposedly solvent until 2042...but my understanding is that at that point it pretty much crashes (more liabilities than what people will be paying in.) If something isn't fixed BEFORE that, you and I and the rest of our generation will have paid a lot of money into a system that we'll never benefit from. I don't like that much. :) I do hope they get it fixed, or barring that, stop making me pay into a broken system.

And about healthcare - I agree that something needs to change. I just don't think that our wonderful government that has produced the SS office and the DMV is the entity to fix it. Because honestly, those people don't care about me any more than the insurance companies do. And while I can complain about insurance companies right up the chain to the insurance commissioner, I don't seem to have any recourse from directly government run offices (such as SS.) So I'm not keen on seeing any MORE government run offices. :)

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Sweetwater and Jenn, thanks for your commiseration. :)

Jonathan, I have to admit it crossed my mind that he was a big, bluffing bully and that it might have been interesting to call that bluff. (Would he REALLY have sent me to jail???) But I had three small kids with me and really, HOW would you explain Mommy being hauled away in handcuffs? ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh that burns my bacon sooooo much! Grrrrr!!

Ma Torg said...

Oh my goodness, how awful! Which office was that?

Having had to do this 3 times, what you need is to get the office to simply sign the copies to verify they are accurate. An 'original' signature is valid. They will need to sign each page, though. If you go back to this same office, you might ask your doctor to attach a note with your copied files.

That is insane. I have never had an experience like that. USually, they are so excited to see a little baby that they are accomodating!

Elena said...

Oh, yuck! I'm so sorry, Emily. That must have been so scary and miserable, especially with three small boys in tow. May the peace of Christ flood your soul and sustain you always.

BTW, what sort of doctor's records do you need to get an SS card in California now?

Amber said...

Wow!! That is absolutely ridiculous. I would have been seriously tempted to call the security guard's bluff too, but I definitely would have chickened out - or just been too completely shocked to respond coherently at all.

My experiences doing the same thing for both Gregory and Nathan were totally different - even when I had to go to the big SSA office in Hayward. They weren't exactly friendly, but they were efficient and at least polite. The Auburn one was really nice - the security guard even made small talk about how cute my kids are. lol. Gotta love small towns.