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Why I Wrote This Book

I retired after 36 years of working at the Social Security Administration (SSA). My last position, which I held for almost six years, was as “Technical Expert for Quality”. This position required me to process the most complex workloads as well as train and mentor other employees.
I had been involved in training less experienced employees in the intricacies of SSA law and procedure from early in my thirty-six year career.
And sometime in those early days, I began to say, “I can answer any question about social security with just two words--”That depends.”

The reason for this all-purpose answer is that the Social Security Act, not to mention the myriad technical instructions required to administer it, is extremely complex. It took me many years of dedicated work and research to acquire the knowledge I have about social security programs.

That Depends is a book about social security--the sacred-cow-third-rail-of-politics-most-popular program of the New Deal, as seen from a unique perspective--behind the desk of a Social Security Administration employee who spent 36 years with the agency working with programs as they affect everyday citizens in everyday life.

So this book is an application of thirty-six years of real-life experience to a discussion of the various social security programs. In Part I, I tell you some of the things I would have told you if I’d interviewed you—and if we’d had as long as we wanted to talk and not just a short appointment. In Part II, I tell you some things I want to give special emphasis. A reader who is a social security attorney or non-attorney representative may find very interesting the chapter on the application date. This is a quite technical topic that involves how prior claims can give retroactivity to a new claim and additional money and/or medical coverage to claimants.

I have written this book to be a sort of user’s guide for the people social security belongs to--workers of the United States and their dependents and survivors.

wisecita

About the Author

Anna Bishop Hargrove
wisecita San Marcos TX

I retired after 36 years of working at the
Social Security Administration (SSA). My last position, which I held for almost six years, was as “Technical Expert for Quality”. This position required me to process the most complex workloads as well as train and mentor other employees.
I had been involved in training less experienced employees in the complexities of SSA law and procedure from early in my thirty-six year career.
And sometime in those early days, I began to say, “I can answer any question about social security with just two words--”That depends.”

The reason for this all-purpose answer is that the Social Security Act, not to mention the myriad technical instructions required to administer it, is extremely complex. It took me many years of dedicated work and research to acquire the knowledge I have about social security programs. I have written this book to share it with others who may find it useful.

Publish Date  December 17, 2010

Dimensions  Pocket  298 pgs   Black and White printing (on cream uncoated paper)

Category  Business

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Comments (8) Write a comment

wisecita

wisecita says

Just send Senator Elizabeth Warren an e-mail about social security. Mentioned my book. Wonder if someone on her staff might look at my preview? Here's what I said to her:
You are not my senator, but I am adopting you because you are what a senator should be. You care about our country and focus on the facts.
My message to you is about Social Security in general and the plan in the President’s budget to change the CPI calculation to the “chained” method.
I My husband and I worked for the Social Security Administration and know well the importance of these programs to people in the United States.
I think what we need most is arithmetic and facts. We need to hear from knowledable economists, actuaries and other experts who could help us compare changing the COLA for social security and other federal programs to other solutions such as tax increases. A more understandable explanation of the CPI affects income taxes would be great too.

I really would like to see analysis of what it would cost to keep the social security system as it is by addressing our debt more by income taxes not just on the very wealthy but some of the rest of us too. People talk about our children having to pay taxes in the future because of deficits, but what about their loss of benefits?

The effect on the current still recovering economy is also interesting. I have heard that the effect of the chained CPI change would amount to three-tenths of one percent. What would be the effect of taking three-tenths of one per cent of the affected federal checks out of the economy's purchasing power? (Social secuity benefits alone totaled about 766 billion dollars in fiscal 2012 according to SSA's website)
Would there also be a drop in consumer spending because people who are still working would need to save more because their expected retirement income would be less? Would their savings merely end up adding to the enormous wealth of financial interests? Perhaps purchasing power that keeps most people’s jobs in the economy would be affected because some people would need to spend more money helping retired or disabled family members?

I wonder what would be the effect to introducing an amendment that before any vote on changing the calculation of social security and other such programs the public would have a way to determine the effect on the benefits they expect based on current law?

I have been thinking about how social security affects people for a long time because of my career with SSA.

I have self-published a book called "That Depends--a Little Book About Social Security". If you should be interested in what a 36-year employeee of SSA has to say about the programs, the book is at Blurb.com and also the Apple Bookstore.
Some of my ideas were about how to save money in social security programs, but it wasn't my expertise to understand the national effect of a change; I just understand how the different programs affect the lives of people whose cases I worked with.
Here are a couple of my ideas:
A time limit for divorced spouses to qualify on each other's records. Under present law, an unmarried person (or for survivor benefits a person deemed not to be married because of marriage after age 60 or after becoming disabled can received) can receive benefits on a divorced spouse's record no matter how long ago the marriage ended as long as the marriage lasted ten years. This often has little to do with the claimant's recent economic situation.

A cap on benefits for non-working dependents. This was also discussed in the deliberations of the Commission of fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

I also believe that a capable and stable staff for SSA and other government agencies is a national security issue because of the access these staffs have to so much information about individuals.
Thanks for looking at my e-mail
I am writing to you on a sad day for your state and I am thinking of all of you there.

posted at 10:02am Apr 16 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Please look at the preview of the book on page 254 to learn how to find on the social security website the details of proposals about social security, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, often called the Simpson-Bowles plan.

posted at 09:07am Dec 24 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Much discussion because of the "fiscal cliff" about "entitlement reform". One of the ideas is to change the cost-of-living" or COLA formula using something called "chained CPI". As I understand it, this is a method that takes into account the change in spending people would make because of inflation. The effect of it would be to lower the cost-of-living increase compared to the formula now being used. The example I have seen is that the price of coffee rose people might drink tea instead because it was cheaper. This seems really to rely on having people have a lower standard of living because of inflation. There is an experimental calculation of the consumer price index that takes into account the rising cost of health care for seniors.
I am not an expert about these things because my career was in carrying out the law as it existed in individual claims and other actions.
Please see my additional comment on how to find the effect of some of the different proposals on the social security website.

posted at 09:01am Dec 23 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Question number 3 above is answered in the book preview on pp 34-40. A person can receive a reduced benefit with no permanent reduction in retirement benefits. There's also an example of a situation where a claimant might want to withdraw the claim that permitted him to do this.

posted at 12:19pm Mar 12 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Comment by the Author. Question number 2 in the Feb. 13 "comment" is now answered in the book preview.

posted at 12:14pm Mar 03 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Some questions about social security answered in "That Depends--A Little Book About Social Security" appear below. To see the answer to question number 1, preview the book and see page 98. Answers to the other questions will be in the preview in the future. To see discussions about some social security topics find the book's title on Facebook. Thanks for looking at my e-mail! Anna Hargrove





1. A beneficiary has just been approved for disability benefits. He has a wife and three children. What is a situation where one or more family members should not file for benefits?
2. A family (surviving spouse and four children) is filing for survivor benefits. Should the surviving spouse file for benefits?
3. Can a retirement beneficiary receive a retirement benefit that will not permanently reduce his future benefit amount? Why might he want to withdraw his claim even if he did?
4. What should a terminally ill person over 62 consider before filing social security claims?
5. A widow age 60 was married twice and both husbands have died. Each of their records would pay her the same amount at age 60. Why might it be essential to choose the correct claim to file?
6. A claimant who became disabled January 31 is waiting to hear from his disability claim. He has an opportunity to try working beginning June 25. He decides not to tell SSA for fear it will prejudice his claim. Why is this a really bad decision?
7. A disability claimant had a prior claim for which benefits ended 10 years ago after he returned to work. Now he is again disabled from the same illness or injury? What decision by the disability determination service must be made to give him a very important advantage in his claim?
8. A disability claimant has been disabled for several years, but has filed no claim. What things should he consider before stating his date of onset?

posted at 11:37am Feb 13 PST

wisecita

wisecita says

Comment by the author: Printing of this book was before I saw information about SSA-2009-0073, a document about how rules have changed about withdrawing social security claims and suspending benefits. Comments about this are on Facebook under the book title "That Depends"

posted at 09:46pm Jan 27 PST

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