Ms. Witter moved to Washington, DC in 1999 after losing her job as a machinist in New York. She had earned a paralegal certificate but still could not find a job despite living in a city full of lawyers. In 2006 she finally decided to start drawing her Social Security checks, but it became apparent that something was not right. The checks ranged from $300 to $900 per month; when she called Social Security to ask about the discrepancies, no one could give her a clear answer.
Not wanting to cash checks that were not right, Ms. Witter wrote “VOID” on the payments and sent them back. Eventually, when she no longer had a reliable way to receive mail, they stopped coming at all. Ms. Witter stayed in homeless shelters or on the street for the next ten years.
It’s no secret that the Social Security Administration is understaffed. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a report that the administration’s budget has shrunk by 10 percent since 2010, while aging baby boomers have swollen its workload. Last year the administration received 37 million phone calls for help and 41 million office visits. The average appointment wait time was three weeks, while more than a million cases for disability payments were backlogged, according to the report.
Ms. Witter called Social Security’s toll-free number, sent letters, and tried to get someone to listen to her predicament. But most folks dismissed her as crazy as she roamed the nation’s capital with a hand-truck loaded down with three suitcases packed full of Social Security paperwork. Most counselors believed that mental illness, rather than messed up Social Security payments, were her problem.
Finally, in 2015, she found someone who believed her. A social worker in Washington, DC went through Ms. Witter’s Social Security paperwork and discovered that her payments were in fact not accurate. Ms. Witter then met with an attorney from the Legal Counsel for the Elderly who soon realized that Ms. Witter was indeed owed a large sum of money.
In June, an official with the Social Security Administration acknowledged the validity and severity of her case and wrote her a check on the spot for $999, the maximum amount allowed without further authorization. Ms. Witter bought herself a good meal and some clothes. Earlier this week she received a further $99,999, the most that Social Security can make as a lump sum without an extended approval process. Her lawyer states that more is coming.
While Ms. Witter may be a special case, many Americans struggle with the Social Security Administration for years before receiving the money they are entitled to. Don’t wait longer for your benefits than you need to – if you are considering filing for Social Security benefits, call us to see if we can help!
Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/i-wasnt-crazy-a-homeless-womans-long-war-to-prove-the-feds-owe-her-100000/2016/08/22/3913e4c2-6541-11e6-8b27-bb8ba39497a2_story.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-homeless-womans-100000-smile-after-social-security-paid-what-it-owed-her/2016/08/23/2e8b0024-695d-11e6-8225-fbb8a6fc65bc_story.html
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®