If my Dad were alive today, he would be 96. One of the many things he protected me from was the bureaucracy of established processes, complicated rules, and strict orders- until yesterday.
I was born with the name: Louise Gail Shapiro. I never liked Gail and chose to drop it when I got married in 1971 to Louise Silk. When I got a divorce in 1998, I kept Louise Silk. When I remarried in 2007 I kept Louise Silk and was told that I would have to take my marriage certificate to Social Security which I didn’t do- until yesterday.
I was very upset to get my Medicare card and see Louise G. Silk. I went online to correct it but discovered that name changes can only be made in person at the social security office. I called to make an appointment (and waited 25 minutes to talk to a person) but there are no appointments for name changes- I would have to go to my local office and wait in line.
Armed with my birth certificate, my marriage license, my passport, my driver’s license, my notice of award from the social security administration, my Medicare card and a book I landed at the East Liberty SS Office at 9:10 on Monday morning. Having a full parking lot the guard directed me to an old garage pad at the end of the alley. My number (there are five sets of numbers running at one time) was R36 and the number that related to that on the screen was R31.
At 10:14 I spoke to the social security representative from behind a sheet of glass. After lots of haggling- I can’t even begin to relate- I learned that I am listed as Louise Gia Silk and the only way to change that is to go down to the county records and initiate a legal name change. At one point in the conversation, I asked the interviewer if my records show I was married in 2007 and she shot back: Social Security knows everything there is to know about you. It made me laugh (and she even chucked)- didn’t they know I dropped my middle name in 1971? To be continued………
Here are some tips I didn’t know that might help you through the social security bureaucracy:
Start with the SSA.gov website. Know what you want before you before reaching for the phone.
Call after Tuesday. Wait times are longer on Monday and Tuesday and the first week of each month. Avoid them.
Make an appointment. A face-to-face meeting at a local Social Security office is the best way to get information. Be prepared to wait a long time unless you are able to make a reservation.
Shop offices. If you find the help at one office is lacking, try another.
Ask to speak to a technical expert. These folks are higher up on the SSA chain of command.