Friday, July 24, 2009

There's been a little complication with my complication

After speaking with a very helpful woman at the Austin Social Security office by phone and then confirming what she told me online, I set off on what I thought would be a quick trip to the Social Security office to change Keith's birthdate. The trip to the office itself was pretty simple, the real trip started once I got in the door.

As requested, I had brought Keith's birth certificate, Texas ID, Social Security card, my Power of Attorney, and the signed form SS-5. I laid out it all out on the counter for the clerk so we could get the birthdate changed and get on to the next set of hoops in our quest for Keith's health benefits.

The clerk looked at the assembled information, scanned the birth certificate and honed in on the signed SS-5 form. He picked it up to look closer and then told me he didn't think that Keith's stamped signature was going to be acceptable to the Social Security Administration. He went to check with the office manager and I heard her shrill voice in the background, "Oh, no! We do not accept rubber stamp signatures in this office!" [this is somewhat amusing when you consider that just about every official document you receive from a government office is finished off with a 'rubber stamp' signature, lol].

The clerk came back to the window a few minutes later and confirmed that despite all the evidence arrayed in front of him, the signature immediately stopped this transaction. I explained to him that the signature was Keith's legal signature since he cannot use his hands due to the progression of his disease. The signature the SSA was denying has been accepted on all legal transactions up to and including Federal banking transactions from when Keith was a bank officer several years ago. He said that was fine for the other organizations, but the Social Security Administration was directed by the Homeland Security office standards which are separate from any other Federal standards.

I asked him for a solution. He had two suggestions:
  1. Have Keith come into the office with me or an attendant so his hand could be held & directed to make 'his mark' [as an official policy, this sounds shady to say the least]; or
  2. Have Keith's doctor write a letter stating that Keith was not competent to sign his name, therefore I or someone else could sign for him.
I just stared at the clerk for a moment and then said "So, let me get this right. Rather than using his legally approved signature stamp to correct an error created by the Social Security Administration, you suggest that he either be physically 'directed' to sign or get a letter declaring him incompetent so that I or someone else could sign for him? And those are the only legal options that the SSA allows?" He said, "Yes, those are the only options available."

At that point, I had no choice but to gather all the paperwork, IDs and the certified birth certificate, and leave the office before I did something that required the security guard in the corner to put down his book and take action.

As I drove down I-35, I kept thinking about the movie Brazil and looked up some quotes when I got home. This one seems to sum my experience pretty well:

Sam Lowry: I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about following up and eradicating any error. If you have any complaints which you'd like to make, I'd be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008

H.R. 6331 To amend titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act to extend expiring provisions under the Medicare Program, to improve beneficiary access to preventive and mental health services, to enhance low-income benefit programs, and to maintain access to care in rural areas, including pharmacy access, and for other purposes. Read more HERE.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Intellectual Oxygen!

We're still contending with oxygen issues. I found the website Portable Oxygen tonight which incredibly informative and translates the "medi-speak" into language that is meaningful.

Pete Wilson's summation of the Medicare rules of oxygen delivery were especially informative and I believe will be very helpful to our case.

If you or anyone you know needs to learn more about O2, I highly recommend checking out Portable Oxygen!