Friday, January 07, 2011

Oh the Bureaucracy!

Yesteryday, Isaac's social security card came in the mail.

You all want to hear that saga, don't you? Yes, you do.

Once upon a time, when Isaac was 13 days old, McKay and I found a babysitter for Margaret and we went downtown to file for a birth certificate. Everything went well because I had everything: a utility bill in my name, proof of pregnancy from Planned Parenthood, a baby. Everything. The lady who filed it said we were the second couple she's processed who has done an unassisted birth. And then we were given pamphlets about well baby visits and whooping cough and we went home.

A couple of weeks later, I went to vital statistics and got a copy of the birth certificate. One down. Now we needed to get one more form of identification and we were set for a social security card! And according to the SSA website, a religious record can count if you don't have the regular things (passport, medical records, etc).

So three months into Isaac's life, he was blessed and we got the little certificate with the bishop's signature. It had Isaac's date and city of birth and our names, so it was pretty official.

I went into Social Security, picked a number, and waited. Isaac was in the mei tai and Margaret was being 2. When my number was called, I went up to the desk, gave them the paperwork and was denied. According to the lady who was working, a birth certificate and religious record count as the same kind of identity: age and citizenship, but not identity. Nevermind that if you read that link above, it says that you can use a religious record if it has the child's name and age and parents' names. So I was turned away, and told to bring in medical records. When I told the lady we didn't have any, she ignored me. I did retort, "How is the signature of a doctor he's never seen before going to provide more proof of identity than the signature of a bishop who sees us weekly?" But of course, she's just a cog in the system and sent us away.

So now we were in a small bind. I wasn't able to get insurance in California when we moved because I was pregnant- I was told to try after the birth. And then, by the time we had Isaac, there were only a few more months and we'd hopefully get insurance through McKay's work. So we just kept paying the Utah-based insurance figuring that if something really bad happened, we'd have to pay out of area prices, but we'd still have something. Of course, at this point (October), a future job with Pixar wasn't looking very good as they weren't really hiring in the department McKay was working for. So yeah.

I called up a local clinic that says they see everyone and scheduled a well baby visit. All I needed was a doctor to weigh and measure Isaac, say he exists, and then take the medical records to social security. No big deal. When we get to the clinic, I find out that I have to pay $150. Cash. Before the exam. Now, if we had medicaid, we'd get in no problem. And really, $150 was doable, but not something I had on me at the time, so I rescheduled and went home. This "free" social security card was going to cost us a pretty penny.

I decided to try calling around to doctors that our insurance would cover out-of-state. The first one I called was a family practitioner. They told me they didn't see children under 16. I'm not sure what part of "family" means "people only in their late teens and above" but whatever. Next, I called a pediatrician on the list but I wouldn't be able to get an appointment for at least a month, and by the way, why do I need an appointment? I told the secretary my social security woes and she commiserated with me, "That can't be right!" but in the end, couldn't do anything for me. I checked one more place and an initial visit was $180, so $150 wasn't looking too bad.

Then I decided since I should be pre-authorizing these visits, I'll call up the insurance. I call them, ask them to pre-authorize an out-of-state well baby visit and I'm told they don't do that because well baby visits are considered preventative care and they don't pre-authorize out-of-area preventative care. I pretty much just broke down and told the person, "I know this isn't your problem, but we just need a visit so we can get a social security number!" They told me I could file a complaint, but that's all. So I decided we'd just give up.

In November, a job suddenly opened up at Pixar due to unforeseen circumstances and in December, we got health insurance! Yay! Party on! But I decided to give it another go with the social security office before scheduling an appointment for Isaac. This time I took the birth certificate, blessing certificate, and the print out of that page I linked to above. Same thing as last time: take a number, wait, go up to the counter.

I gave them the certificates and again, I'm asked about medical records. I pull out the page I printed off and said, "Well, here," I point to the page, "it says that in the absence of medical records, a religious record will do." The lady doesn't argue with me and just puts all the information in the computer. I let her know that the blessing was a naming ceremony, so she checked that box and we went home being told a social security number will be issued and a card sent to us in 5-7 days. Meanwhile, holidays happened.

And the card showed up yesterday. In 15 years, Isaac can get a job. Go him!

And I figured out how to get a birth certificate and social security card in the state of California without paying for more than the copy of the birth certificate!
I'm doing a little dance. Doo doo doo doo doo doo. Please ignore my inability to keep my verbs in the same tense. I know it's a grammatical mess, but I don't care. I'm dancing.


  1. the social security offices in CA are entirely responsible for my not changing my name until i'd been married for 15 years! i tried a couple of times and then gave up. like you, i finally got the right person on the right day.

  2. That's great that you were able to get it done without having to see a doctor.

  3. I hate government offices. I work in one technically and the paper work is ridiculous. Also... the waits!!! Anyway, I'm glad you got the right person who actually understood what customer service was. (And how to do what you needed.) Yay for babies!

  4. Yay for you! I hate that so many employees don't even know their own policies. The social security office seems to be especially bad for that.

  5. Congratulations! I've been following your blog silently for a little while now, and I really enjoyed this post. Good job getting through the red tape relatively unscathed! It's such a pain dealing with government programs like this.


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