Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Social Security....

I am writing you this letter in response to the call I received on February 14, 2011 at 10 AM from a gentleman with the Social Security Administration, asking me to suddenly justify every expense I have had on behalf of my children in 2010.

On a personal note:  I apologize that I did not happen to be sitting in front of my bank statement, my credit card statement, my investment portfolio, and my receipts for 2010 when I received this unexpected call.  The representative seemed to imply that, because of my hesitant responses to his invasive questions, I had somehow squandered or misused the funds.  I don’t know if I could have answered those unanticipated questions on a good day and, frankly, if your office feels it’s appropriate to call widow(er)s with children on Valentine’s Day and ask them to suddenly list their expenses for an entire year...I’m afraid you are probably not going to get the response you are looking for. 

I will justify my expenses to you for the year with the money that my deceased husband had taken out of his hard-earned paycheck his entire adult life (although I am still unclear as to how that is relevant to you...this is the Social Security that we have paid for).   I am running a house.  I am paying for maintenance on a 7-year-old car that has 120,000 miles on it from running my kids to all of their activities.  I am now solely responsible for a home and maintenance to that home, as well as increased electric, gas, and water bills. 

I am paying for healthcare and taxes that have been raised even though my benefits have not. 

I encourage you, who are so concerned with how I spend my children’s Social Security benefits, to really get an understanding of where my money goes.  Come with me to their counseling appointments.  Take a drive with us when we spend the gas money to go to their father’s grave.  Watch me hand over the babysitting money I now have to pay because I am a single mother.

I help support a community of almost 1000 widows who are baffled daily by how Social Security benefits affect them.  For those people who chose not to or were unable to have children (or for those who fall into some arbitrary age window)...they are handed a one-time check for $250 and are left confused about where all of the money that their spouses put into the system went.  For those of us who have children and who are trying to keep their lives “business as usual”’s hard to explain why you can’t write a check (because you may not be able to justify it to a stranger behind a desk) for a school fundraiser that’s trying to raise money to buy paper because the budget has been cut.

All I ask is that, when you call a widow, demanding answers to complicated questions, remember that you are usually speaking to someone who has been devastated by a loss that has left their life completely broken and they are doing the best they can to pick up the pieces.  Half (or all) of their household income is gone but most of the time the same expenses are there.  And for those of us with children...we are doing the best we can with little lives that will never be the same with the limited benefits we are receiving.

I realize that it is probably not up to you, the person reading this letter, to fix this system.  Just remember...there is a good chance you will be on the other end of this phone call some day. 

Thank you.

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© Catherine Tidd 2011


  1. Thank you for sharing this experience. I'm one of those widows without children, so my husband's SS money will never be seen or heard from again. What's more, he began drawing it when he became ill. He received only 3 checks and they refused to pay his last check to me because he died on the 27th of March instead of living until April 1. I was dumbfounded that they wouldn't even pay a partial amount. The SS system seems greedy and heartless. Very sorry to hear about your experience.

  2. I love this letter. I am sitting in the same boat as you. I will be writting a letter also you have just inspired me!! I was gonna just tell them it was none of their business and it is getting saved for college and everyday life but now I feel the need to literally estimate everything I have bought this year including utility bills. These people make me sick. May God Bless You. Please let me know if you get a repsonse to your letter!!!

  3. Is this a scam? Doesn't sound ligit. This info request comes from the ssa on official letterhead. Even then It's worth verifying that it's a mailing from them before giving any info on the phone?

  4. I faced similar stress when I had to apply again for financial aid in college a few years ago and was denied funds because my family made 'too much money' that year. Oh really? That's because my mom died two months before, and we received her life insurance, a-holes. Doesn't anyone take into effect the thousands of dollars that goes into planning a funeral, buying a plot of land at the cemetery, and purchasing a casket, vault, and headstone? Obviously not, because my aid was all taken away, and now I am left with more debt than I imagined. It's sickening that we are almost 'punished' for our losses.

    I hope you were still able to enjoy the rest of your day, xoxo

  5. I can only imagine all the stress involved with raising children in today's expensive world. When my husband died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 53, our oldest was 30 yrs. old and youngest was 21. So, of course, there were to be no SS funds paid for surviving children. Little did I realize until my meeting with my lawyer that I would also be denied any of the money paid in by my husband all those years.....until I reach the age of 60. The SS rep repeated many times, "If you remember nothing else about this call, remember the age 60 as that is when you can begin to draw on your husband's social securty". Wow. I was dumbfounded. We had a business together for 30 years, each paying in to the government as required, and now for the next seven years I would have to "wait" to see any of what he had submitted?
    I fell into that "age" hole where I would have to "wait".
    Even tho you are fighting an uphill battle, I admire your courage and strength as you face this new challenge. You truly do keep many of us hopefully in the face of our daily lives.
    God bless.

  6. When I went to SS to apply for the aid for my kids, they told me that someone would be calling me to talk about how the money was spent. But so far, no call. At least now I'll be prepared.