A Senior Moment – Yikes! Need to replace my Social Security Card!
Like many others, I have always been concerned about having to deal with the SSA. Big bureaucracy, arbitrary rules and uninterested employees.
However, my recent adventure with them has changed my mind about it, especially the face to face aspect. Dealing on the phone can still be a nightmare… (It’s not unusual when calling to have a “short “wait in excess of one hour!!) Anyway, not being able to find my original SS card (the original got lost eons ago), I first tried to get a replacement by visiting myssa.com account. By the way, if you don’t have an account—get one immediately for any dealing with SSA its a great shortcut to get what you need. After logging on, I inquired about a replacement card and learned that residents of some States can apply and get one online. I was delighted to see that AZ was one of them. For some unexplained reason—this option was not open to me. Wasn’t clear and it didn’t explain to me. I thought about using the US mail, but get this, they suggested I send them my original passport. Yah, right…
I tried to get answers by phone which was nearly impossible due to the ungodly long waits. However, I eventually learned the most useful secret in dealing with them. While it takes a while to find, they do have a “Call Back” option where you can ask for them to call you back at a specified time. Believe it or not, one option is RIGHT NOW! And it works. On more than one occasion, I got a call back within a few minutes.
Being totally frustrated about the whole process and not being able to get anything to work, I unhappily made to decision to bite the bullet and appear in person at the local office in Tucson. Don’t even try for an appointment—they first available is at least 2-3 months away.
Against my better judgement, I went to the SSA office on a Monday morning expecting the worst. The parking lot was huge—football field size and it was nearly full. I eventually found a parking place and went inside with the documentation I believed I would need. I was confronted by a nice security guard who inquired if I had anything in my pockets, and then explained he was most concerned about my rather small pocketknife. Not quite airport level security, but close. I took it back to the car and then went in.
The waiting room was huge and filled with all sorts of folks, numbering at least 50 or more. But there was a kiosk where you got a number after entering personal info and the reason for your visit. And here is the surprising feature… If you are there only for something simple like address change, or a replacement card, you are not put into the same que as those with more difficult or complicated problems. Since they regard a replacement card as a “simple” matter, I got a ticket with a “K” number on it. Amazed, my number was only 4 away from the one being currently served. Within 15 minutes, I was warmly greeted, appropriately questioned, I showed proper documentation (i.e.–passport) and soon was told a new card would be mailed and received within a few days. Since I had inquired as to why I couldn’t do this online, my new best friend offered to check and said something about a new password and gave me a new code to reactivate my SSA account. (Which I did as soon as arriving back home—and it worked perfectly.)
Bottom line, I was surprised and pleased with my SSA visit. While this may not be the norm, it proves that efficiency does exist and that you can be treated efficiently and correctly IF, and this is a big IF, you act in a decent manner, be polite, explain fully and show just a bit of patience and respect for these folks who have a tough and sometimes demanding job.
Certainly an interesting, Senior Moment!
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