Thursday, October 11, 2007

Choking on Red Tape

Today is one of those days I'd like to find the guy who coined the phrase, "Your government...working for you!" Well, not if you try to utilize their websites to talk to anyone. You can look, but you can't get real help. You can only receive their three patented answers: [1] Look at FAQ [2] Are you sure you checked our FAQ section? [3] No, you can't do that here.

Maybe Slogan Guy is also the one who initiated the Red Tape Waltz.

Auntie, for whom I have a Power of Attorney since her stroke in 2000, moved from an assisted living facility to a nursing home. Most of her mail comes to me, which isn't a problem. Only a few pieces, like Social Security don't. For the most part that's not a problem as her check is Direct Deposit and I don't have to deal with them first hand. Recently a situation arose where I discovered the easiest solution was a change of address. Silly me contacted Social Security, via their website, to change her address. You're rolling your eyes already, aren't you? Finding the most formidable legal warning of what they would do to me if I wasn't actually her, I backed away. Slowly....fighting the urge to look over my shoulder and see if someone from the Federal Government was about to kick down my door and drag me away from the computer. I suggest all terrorists apply for a card...they'd quickly give up and find another country to torture that doesn't torture it's only citizens for trying to follow policy.

But I digress.

So I "contacted" the Social Security by e-mail and explained the situation. Their terse reply, after asking if I'd checked the FAQ section, was that THEY do not recognize a POA. Hmm, so what's legal for everyone else doesn't apply to them? They did offer to allow me to stand in line for hours on end at my local SS office to apply for their own very special "This person legally represents a family member" designation. I'm pretty sure auntie's lawyer prepared a legally sound POA. I kindly declined...by not replying or checking the FAQ section.

I'd been able to skip the Change of Address postal route by personally contacting most of the individuals who contact her via mail with a simple request that they send her mail straight to me. I provided a couple of copies of the POA but that's fine...I have nothing to hide. In fact, the reason we took this route was to get her name off the mailing list of every catalog company who has ever produced something for mass consumption. She was on a first name basis with the UPS guy at her old residence. I get the bright idea I'll simply change her address online at the USPS site. You're shaking your head already, aren't you?

It was so quick. So easy. Took only seconds to type in the "Old" and present the "New" information. At the push of a button her mail, and possibly 100 new catalogs, would jet toward the proper address at the nursing home. Hey, I don't want all those catalogs in my mailbox...my mailman still likes me. I hit "Send", convinced I had utilized one government agency to thwart the other.

Wrong. Evidently, there's a conspiracy.

I was advised by the website that I was not allowed to have mail for an Individual sent to a business address. You know you can't win when your relative moves from an assisted living facility [listed as a Business by the USPS] to a nursing home which is listed as...say it with me...a Business. I hit the "Contact Us" button, explained the situation and waited.

At least it didn't take them 2 days, like their website advised. No, it took about 2 hours to let me know that according to their data base, the addresses I was trying to use belonged to businesses and I couldn't do that online. I would need to actually get in a car and travel to my local post office and handle it in person.

I should've just started there to begin with. After all, the guy at my local post office is a PERSON who likes People and has the audacity to be both helpful and charming. I'm sure the USPS would fire him if they had a clue, but I have no plans to "Contact Us" to share that fact. I just hope I don't try to hug him when he helps me do the right thing. I'm sure there's a horrible penalty for actually touching a federal government employee.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

LOL!! I know what you mean about dealing with govt. red tape! you always feel like you're in a catch-22 situation.