Dealing with ‘pure government’

Published 7:30 am Saturday, August 6, 2022

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My late mother-in-law kept up with things that were going on with the government. She didn’t mind expressing her opinion relating to something she thought was wrong. At times, just like most conscientious citizens, she disagreed with domestic policies and sometimes complained that the government had little concern for “us elders,” as she described herself and her peers. When something related to her social security, nursing home care or hospitalization, got fouled up, she had a simple yet emphatic explanation. “It’s just pure government,” she’d declare.

Something she would label “pure government” occurred, when a letter came to me from the Social Security Administration addressed to my maiden name and sent to a previous address. The message from the Commissioner of Social Security followed on the heels of a similar letter I had received dated just nineteen days earlier bearing my correct name and address. The difference was I had requested the personal benefit statement that arrived first. The second one with the incorrect name and address was probably one that was sent by the social security administration’s office some months before people reach the age when they contemplate applying for benefits.

Just that year my husband and I had marked our 42nd wedding anniversary. You can imagine our surprise when I opened that letter. I dug for my billfold in my purse and reached for my social security card. I wanted to make sure I had not been carrying the original one all those years and, of course, I had not. There it was, plain as day with my married name.

My next step was to dial the 1-800 number listed in the letter. After a brief wait, a representative listened to me and punched the information up on her computer. My maiden name jumped out. “Yes,” I told. I had applied for a new card with my married name and that very moment I held it in my hand. She said I needed to apply for a new card and she would put in an application in the mail that day. She added that I needed my marriage certificate and some other proof of identity along with the application. At that moment my mother-in-law’s “pure government” came to mind. “Won’t this card with my right name work as identification?” I asked. She answered no.

When the form came, we took it and our marriage certificate to the local social security office. The representative was polite and helpful and started the process to change the records. It had been on record for 42 years with the incorrect name although I had filed for the changes all those years ago.

“Pure government,” my mother-in-law would have said. “Just pure government!”