Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Soul Searching. Or As I Like To Put It: Searching For A Government Soul

Everyone has been so supportive and helpful with this whole stupid thing that I’m going through with the Social Security Administration and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  We always say it and it’s so completely true:  No one understands a widow like another widow.

I know this support comes from a personal place within all of you.  You’re either upset because you’ve already been screwed over by this system, or you’re worried you will be.  And with good reason.  It can apparently happen at any time and when we’re least expecting it.

Last night I excused myself from the Valentine’s Day chat on theWiddahood.com because I felt like I had been holding back tears all day, trying to keep it together so that my kids’ day wouldn’t be completely ruined.  Every once in awhile those tears would spill out and I would get an encouraging pat on the shoulder from my very sensitive 9-year-old daughter who didn’t really know what was going on...she just knew I was having a bad day.

The perfect display of love on Valentine’s Day.

This morning, groggy from the sleeping pill I took last night in an effort to make today look better, I really started thinking about why this is bothering me so much.  I realized that I’m taking this whole thing really personally and it’s not.  In my overthinking mind, I feel like some random stranger is questioning my abilities as a mother when in reality...I’m just part of a system.  I’m a number.

What’s been interesting about this whole thing has been the responses I’ve seen from other widows.  And I can sum it up in one word. 


Really?  Of our own government?  Of a benefit program that is supposed to provide us with “security” and that we are forced to pay into...but they’re not forced to pay out of?

Huh.  Isn’t that a little like mandatory gambling?

As most of you will understand, what bothers me the most is that this is yet another glaring reminder that my life is not at all what it used to be.  Four years ago, no random person would have ever questioned the money that my husband and I spent on our kids.  

But now that I’m collecting Social Security on their behalf...it seems that the government has the right to question how it’s being spent.

To what extent?

Am I allowed to feed their friends when they come over?  Is a government agent going to tell me that my grocery bill is too high and that we need to start eating leftovers more often?  Should I start sending in my kids’ growth chart, holy jeans, and shoes with no toes from scraping them on the ground while they ride their bikes in order to justify how much I’ve spent on clothes? Will I have to tell the kids that they can no longer ride the bus (something we have to pay out of pocket for now because of budget cuts) because the government (who cut the budget) might not see that as a necessary expense?

What about if I decided to go on antidepressants?  That’s looked at as my own expense...but if I became so depressed I couldn’t take care of my children...shouldn’t that fall under their benefits since I’m their primary caretaker?

A lot of us have said that when it comes to the SSA...how helpful they are and how your benefits seem to work a lot of times depends on who you get on the phone.  Why is that?  This should just be a system...not something that is subject to opinion.  If I’m required to be saving a certain amount (so that it doesn’t “raise any red flags,” to quote my SSA friend from yesterday)...shouldn’t that be in my paperwork somewhere? 

Who is this person going over my paperwork?  Do they have kids?  Am I allowed to question how that person (because they get paid by the government and my tax dollars), personally spends the check they receive every month?

One of the things that I didn’t put in that letter that should definitely be added (and I don’t know how I missed it...it’s something I have thought is completely unfair for years) is the salary cap if you are receiving Social Security benefits.  So if your husband put a portion of every single paycheck he’s earned since he was 16-years-old and he dies, leaving you with 1 or 2 kids (thereby splitting the allotment between you and the kids) and you accept those benefits...you are only allowed to earn around $14,000 a year or your benefits go away?

I wonder if they realize that they are somewhat forcing a lot of people with young children into a kind of “volunteer poverty program” because they’re scared of losing their benefits.

There is no possible way I could be living “high off the hog” with the Social Security benefits that I’m receiving.  It’s not like I could afford to take the kids on a trip around the world with that money. 

And if I did...who are you, the US Government...to tell me that I can’t? 

I know that people say this all the time about doctors...that they should have to spend some time as a patient in the hospital at the beginning of their careers...scared, alone, and worried about what’s going to happen next.

I think the same is true of these government agencies.  Spend a little time in our shoes.  Devastated by loss.  Wondering how we’re going to make ends meet.  Trying to put one foot in front of the other and carve out a normal life for our kids.

And then have to justify, to a stranger who calls you out-of-the-blue, how you could possibly be living your life the way you are.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  

© Catherine Tidd 2011

1 comment:

  1. i couldnt agree more but i have to say the truth is i am sure is that what you said about the glaring reminder that he is gone and we have to do it all is hard. i try and tell myself to be grateful for the time i had and than the kids had a great dad as well. most of the time i pretend with a vengance that i am fine and everything will be and most of the time i convince myself ... however yesterday just like you i got a few hugs from the kids and once again grief was my companion, unwanted or not.