Social Security Administration

or just torture for short

The wife and I went to our local Social Security Administration (SSA) office today to apply for cards with our new names on them. What we (and by we I of course mean me, who was in charge of this outing) thought would be a 10 minute wait turned out to be closer to an hour. My wife, who I’ve always considered to be smarter than me, brought a book with her just in case. I brought my phone.

After reading all the product reviews on The Verge, catching up on the latest gossip concerning the Affordable Health Care Act, polling my email client every 3 minutes for new messages (not to leave you all in suspense, I got none), I really had nothing to do but listen to the lady currently hogging the window complain about her situation.

What I heard was a tale of endless phone calls (she claimed to have had more than 200 hours of discussions with the office), endless waiting on hold, visits to several offices, and accusations of having voluntarily declined Part A coverage (something I’m sure I’ll learn about when I’m older). She went on to describe how it had taken her over four years to get her mother the proper coverage that she needed at the age of ninety.

Four years… I can’t imagine following a bureaucratic rabbit hole for that long. I don’t know how the SSA system works so I can’t think of what could possibly take four years to do. You could literally walk messages across the country back and forth during that time. The sad part is I’ll bet what ended up needing to be done was some box on some system needed to be checked, or some toggle flipped. It probably took that long to just talk to the right person who knew what they were doing to go “oh, I see the issue” click “all fixed!”. Four years. What kind of a system do we have in place where it takes four years to figure this stuff out?

I think I have a very naive sense from being in the tech industry where four years is an eternity, and that we can solve these kinds of problems with information technology. Why have a giant system of people, when you can replace them with an autoamted system to handle everything?

It of course never works out that way (cough cough), but I still wonder, and hope, and wait in my chair as I check my phone for new email… nope… still nothing.