Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Share your Social Security experience!

Mr. W

November 11th, 2011

Subject: Investigation report by Elsa Housseas and Nilsa DeLeon.

Dear Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Commissioner Astrue, Elsa Housseas, Nilsa DeLeon and Social Security legal department,

This letter is a response to the investigation report by Elsa Housseas and Nilsa DeLeon from the Social Security Astoria and Jamaica branch. I want to thank them for their work in putting this report together, and it is very much appreciated that the government has such a program for its citizens. Social Security expects me to comply with the Federal laws and regulations, which I have always done and will continue to do, and I expect the same from Social Security staff.

Unfortunately, when agencies make an internal investigation like this one, where actually the person who is part of the problem is co-writing this report (Mrs. Housseas), it is common that information is not always reflecting the truth or a lack thereof, for reasons of embarrassing or fraudulent information revealed, to protect the agency in question and its staff. Only an outside investigation would be honest, truthful and actually effective. It certainly reflects in this report and without sending me any of the requested documents on how you came to those answers, and leaving out the main issues altogether, underlines my statement that this internal full investigation is unprofessional and useless to me.

Here is my response to this incomplete report. I hope that, with a collective effort, you all will be able to address all the missing issues that were not addressed in your first report.

1)     Paragraph One in your report:
a)     I also repeatedly requested in advance from Mrs. DeLeon a copy of the information you created this report from, including a printout of my computer file for cross checking.
b)     I repeatedly requested a copy of the authorization form with my signature on it, which you documented that you have on file, which you sent via email to Chase Bank to release my bank information, a requirement for the bank to release this information.
c)     I repeatedly requested information about where in your rules and regulation it says that you can add $80 cash money that I had in my pocket one day during my re-determination, and count it as additional income for months.
d)     I repeatedly requested information about on which documents Mrs. Disman made six changes of my supplemental security income (SSI) record, and a total of 8 changes in less than 3 months

2)     Paragraph 3
On June 26, 2009, S.S. made an adjustment based on my self-employment tax return income; I did not question that at all, because it is part of the annual adjustment process based on my tax return. But since you brought it up, why does it take you until the end of June to make an adjustment that was submitted to your office in April, when you have the time to change my account 8 times in 3 months? More details on that below.

3)     Paragraph 4
a)     Your quote; “I stated I had $80 cash on hand from March 2008 until April 2010.” This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Please provide a document where I made this statement for 2 years.

4)     Paragraph 5
a)     In order for Social Security to access clients bank information, Social Security needs a signed
authorization form on file by the client. The bank needs a copy of this authorization form in order to release personal bank information. This is required by Federal law. Mrs. DeLeon told me on the phone on April 14, 2011, that this document does not exist and that S.S. has no signed authorization form on file, but Mr. Dapiton checked the box on the web request-form he sent to Chase bank on May 13th, 2010, that in fact he has such document on file.

5)     Page 2 Paragraph 7
How is it possible that the Astoria branch can add $80 cash a month without showing me proof that this was additional income to my annual tax return I provided to S.S.?

a)     I made it clear to your staff that I cannot show proof of $80 income every month, but they insisted that they don’t make the rules. Please send me documentation and show me those rules they are referring to, because this happened more than once at the Astoria branch and is not a mistake. This was intentionally and strategically pushed on me and it was the commissioner’s office that had to make this adjustment, because the Astoria branch refused to comply with the Federal law.

6)     Page 2 Paragraph 8
a)     “Ms. Pat Paul mailed me the rules and regulations.” Sending me rules and regulations is not the same as mailing me a requested copy of the signed authorization form needed by Social Security to access my personal bank information from my bank.
b)     I requested this information from the Astoria branch, Nilsa DeLeon and the commissioner’s office and Chase Bank. To this date I have not received this signed request form, which is required by Federal law, in order to release personal bank information from your clients.
c)     On February 12th, 2011, Mrs. Housseas sent me also a letter including the Code of Federal Regulations where she highlighted in yellow the following under (g):

If you don’t give us permission to contact any financial institution and request any financial records about you when we think it is necessary to determine your SSI eligibility of payment amount, or if you cancel the permission, (and the following was underlined in red ink by her) you cannot be eligible for SSI payments.

I see this as an imitation tactic by Mrs. Housseas, telling me that I will lose my benefits if I don’t comply, when in fact I am the one complying with the Federal law. I feel this is abuse of power to intimidate me, and they continue to single me out. I have always cooperated with Social Security and always will; just ask me what you need and I give it to you. Please show one proof of document that you can attach to this intimidating statement she made here to justify this intimidating behavior, and proof to all parties involved in my case, where I was not in compliance or was not cooperating with Social Security, and explain why you felt the need to highlight and underline in red ink such a statement.

In addition, you didn’t address the following:

1) On May 27th, 2011, I send a letter to Mrs. DeLeon, informing and requesting documentation from her about how Mrs. Disman made six changes on my supplemental security income (SSI) record, in less than 3 months and a total of 8 changes altogether were made in less than 3 months. For 3 months it was changed every 9 and a half days. Please explain why Mrs. Housseas and Mrs. DeLeon failed to send me the requested documents. Since Mrs. Housseas and Mrs. DeLeono failed to address this completely, it gives me the feeling that I was singled out for no legitimate reason at all.

Here are the dates of the letters from 2011, the people who sent me the changes, including Mrs. Housseas:

February 8th, by Disman
March 7th, by Disman
March 23rd, by Wilson
April 2nd, by Disman
April 11th, by Housseas
April 13th, by Disman
April 18th, by Disman
April 25th by Disman

2) On July 1st, 2011, I sent a letter to Mrs. Housseas and Mrs. Deleon about the waiver of the overpayment. I was responding to the letter I received from Mrs. Housseas. Mrs. Housseas sent me information on what S.S. paid me and what S.S. should have paid, but there were no supporting documents on how she calculated those payment numbers, even after I clearly requested those documents. How am I able to check her statements without having the documents she was working from? I am sure by now it is clear that I can not trust how the Astoria branch does business with me and it became mandatory for me to request all documents the Astoria branch is working from.

3) On April 4, 2011, I send a letter to Mrs. Disman also requesting documents about the last overpayment, because she said she had received documents from the IRS of additional income from October 2010 until December 2010. I never heard back from her, and needless to say, I did not receive the documents she was referring to from the IRS, that showed I had additional income. It gives me the feeling that I was singled out again for no reason at all.

4) On January 3rd, 2011 and February 1st, 2011, I sent a letter to Mr. Dapiton requesting the document he sent to Chase Bank to release my personal bank information. On the request form he sent out to Chase on May 13, 2010, he checked the box, that he has a customer’s signature/authorization form on file. Again, he never mailed me this document, and Mrs. DeLeon told me on the phone that this document doesn’t exist. To confirm this information, I wrote to the Chase legal department and they have confirmed that such a document doesn’t exist.

5) You also failed to address the last overpayment that was dropped, and several hundred dollars that have been taken out of my account. When you drop an overpayment charge, don’t you have to pay me back the money you have taken out? And why was I not notified by the Astoria branch that the overpayment was dropped? Why did I have to find out this information from Mr. Wolf from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office?

6) I am a recipient of the PASS program and the Astoria branch at one point in May 2011 cancelled the PASS payment. I called Mr. MacGowen, who handles the PASS program on May 6, 20011, and asked him why my payment was reduced and if my PASS application was cancelled. He told me on the phone that my PASS was not cancelled, and that somebody at the Astoria branch made this change. Mr. MacGowen could not explain to me why that change was made at the Astoria branch. He was able to adjust this matter and I was paid the balance within one week. I was never notified by the Astoria branch about this action. This type of behavior by the Astoria branch gives me the feeling that I was singled out again and again.

7) You also failed to address the abuse of power, the lies, the disrespect and humiliation, which is a lot more than, quote: “not being satisfied with the service I received”. The Astoria staff on a regular basis and consistently lies face to face and they have a full strategy in place on how they deal with me as a client and how they intimidate me on a regular basis; see the example below.

Example: At a meeting with Ms. Paul on June 22nd, 2010, I was requesting documents, but she told me that Social Security doesn’t provide any documents to their clients. I was looking for the letter I received from S.S. and told her, but it says it in the letter S.S. send to me. At that point I was feeling anxiety coming on and I was very nervous about having an anxiety attack again. I couldn’t find the paragraph in the letter Social Security mailed to me. I kept insisting that it says in the letter that I have the right to request documents from my file; she kept insisting that this is not possible. While I kept insisting and managing to control my anxiety at the same time, she picked up the phone and called her supervisor, asking the supervisor if there was a policy to release documents to clients. The supervisor told Ms. Paul on the phone that there is no such policy and backed up Ms. Paul. Come on you all, what do you call this? I kept looking for this paragraph and finally found it and showed it to Ms. Paul. She took the letter and walked away from the desk to talk to the supervisor, which was helpful to control my anxiety. When she came back she was all friendly and her personality changed 100%. As a result of me being able to show her in the S.S. document sent to me that I had the right to request documents, I was able to get my document printouts, which is all I was asking for. I feel that this is strategically planned, they use abuse of power and are non-compliant with the Federal law, including clearly the supervisor as well.

In closing:
Having said all that, in addition a whole other layer of problems are not included in this report. What the Astoria branch has created is a very unprofessional and an unhealthy mental environment for its clients. This is also the reason why I wrote to the Astoria branch that it is best for me to address my issues via mail and phone going forward, because I have a mental condition and this type of environment you all have in place in Astoria is putting my mental health at risk for having more anxiety attacks. I first experienced anxiety attacks when I was on public assistance, another government agency, where I experienced the same abuse of power and ended up in a mental institution and treatment.

Overall my experience with the Astoria branch is what I call in my life, “a disgrace to the human race.”  I am a community leader for the LGBT community and an activist. Telling me that the employees at
the Astoria branch were reminded of doing their job right, when they are trained to do what they are told by their supervisors, which is exactly what they did, is of no service to me nor to all the clients at the Astoria branch. If this is happening to me it happens to other clients, because they have a whole infrastructure in place on how to hold back documents clients are entitled to and how to intimidate clients. When dealing with your staff I could clearly see how they back up each other and also how they use the abuse of power to intimidate me, the client. By threatening me to lose my benefits if I don’t comply with the Federal laws is ironic, because I am the one who is complying with the Federal law, and for that, you are putting me through all this! Your branch is making me feel like I am a second class citizen, when all I did and will do is asking for my rights as an American citizen and what I am entitled to by law. And by doing so, I have to put up with your abuse.

I am looking forward to receiving all the requested documents, information and explanations I addressed in this letter and I thank you in advance for taking the time to do so.

I also want to be very clear that my motivation is to comply with the Federal law and make it better for all the S.S. clients. I also will provide any documentation you request and I will answer any questions you may have.

Mr. W