It took a homeless woman who lives on the streets of our nation’s capital more than 10 years, but she finally proved that Social Security owes her more than $100,000.
Wanda Witter, a former machinist from Corning, N.Y., who is divorced and the mother of four adult children, told the Washington Post that she kept years of paperwork in plastic bags and suitcases that she lugged around with her. “I knew, when I committed to homelessness, I had to be very careful about what I did. ‘Don’t do anything stupid,’ I told myself. Because they’ll think I’m a mental case,” she told the paper.
And that, pretty much, is what occurred. She made hundreds of calls to the Social Security Administration’s toll-free help line that went largely ignored and she was indeed dismissed as crazy, reported The Post.
But, as The Post also reports, one social worker finally listened and investigated her claims. Lo and behold, Witter was correct. The social worker, Julie Turner from Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said, “She had all the paperwork there, neatly organized, in order. She was right all along. They did owe her all that money.”
One of the obstacles was that Witter lacked a mail delivery address. But with the check in the mail, Turner helped Witter find and move in to a small apartment of her own.
While Social Security mistakes are rare, they do happen. And getting the behemoth agency to admit and fix an error can be an uphill battle. Sometimes the error occurs because an employer does not correctly report earnings, which means having to provide proof of actual earnings to have your benefits adjusted and paid correctly.
One of the simplest and best ways to avoid such a situation is to actually look at the statements the Social Security Administration provides. These statements used to be mailed annually but were switched to once every five years a few years ago. They are available online as well, and can be accessed at any time for those who enroll to receive them here. If anything seems amiss, you’ll need to locate documents that prove the error ― tax forms, W-2 forms or even pay slips. If you can’t find these documents, Social Security says to write down the name and address of your employer, the dates you worked there, the amount you earned and the name and Social Security number you were using at the time, and the agency will investigate the problem for you.
If you think your earnings record is correct, but Social Security calculated your monthly benefit incorrectly, you can request a “recomputation” of your benefit. The process of calculating benefits is highly automated, so if the right information went into the system, the resulting calculation will most likely be correct, notes Bankrate. But still, mistakes happen. And if an 80-year-old homeless woman can move the mountain, so can you.