Let’s start with Social Security. Signing up online is touted as a simple process. At first glance, that’s true. But don’t make the mistake of putting in comments in any of the boxes following the sections you’re asked to fill out because it will generate a lengthy letter (with appropriate bulky paperwork) that you’ll need to fill out before they’ll continue. That was such a headache. They had listed what they said was my salary from the previous year. It didn’t seem to match what had been shown as my gross amount on my tax forms from work and I made the mistake of asking them to check the figure. What was I thinking? The letter I got included a form that I needed to fill out if I thought the amount was wrong and then include paperwork supporting that claim. Does anybody really think I’m going to spend hours on that? Not likely. And shouldn’t they have accurate records?
That little hiccup in the process got taken care of. I then sailed through my retirement festivities and started figuring out who I am now and what I plan to do every day. It’s been two weeks and I’ve checked my bank account every day to see if my first Social Security payment has arrived. Then yesterday I got a letter and an accompanying booklet about how Social Security works. Here’s what the book says:
“The benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due. For example, you would receive your July benefit in August. Generally, the day of the month you receive your benefit payment depends on the birth date…” This was accompanied by a chart that showed that my benefits would arrive around the 4th Wednesday of the month. And then the letter went on to tell me that I could expect my first payment (for December) around January 23rd. If my workplace hadn’t paid out my accrued PTO before I left, I wouldn’t have made it until then. Sure would be nice if they’d disclose that nasty little piece of information a couple of months in advance, wouldn’t it? So I won’t get any Social Security for my first two months of retirement. Ouch.
And then there’s Medicare. That was the real nightmare. I have a friend who was shocked that I had any difficulties at all. She said she signed up online, everything went smoothly and she hadn’t had any problems with any of her doctor appointments. Now I don’t know if she went through a different entity or not; I went through AARP. But my experience in sorting through parts A and B, the differences between parts N, G, and F (and what felt like Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z), plus prescription part D depended on the agent on the phone. I had one lady who was as pleasant at Godzilla and as helpful as a block of cement, another one who talked in circles (I had an image of a cat chasing its tail), and a third who spoke so cryptically that I was certain she was speaking Greek or Swahili.
Finally, with the final addition of part D (prescriptions) I got it all sorted out and breathed a deep sigh. I had been so pleased that I only had two prescriptions because the prices all seemed to hinge on how many prescriptions I had. I felt lucky – – that is until yesterday. That’s when I got the letter telling me that they didn’t cover one of my medications. Seriously? I only have two, I’m paying premiums to get my rates down and you don’t even cover one of them? I called in to ask if there was a different RX coverage I could change to that would cover what I actually needed and the only thing the woman kept saying was that she’d be happy to disenroll me from Part D. Not what I asked. Not what I wanted. According to the letter, my other option is to have my physician call them and explain why they need to make an exception for the medication and that’s what I plan to tackle next. Now I understand why so many seniors are taking on part-time jobs once they retire. They need it to cover the phone bill to Medicare.
What happens, I wonder, to the seniors who try to navigate this minefield with something like early dementia?